The National Pharmacy Association (NPA) has called on NHS England to provide an uplift in the pharmaceutical services global sum as cost pressures in community pharmacy increase.  

In a letter, sent to Dr Ursula Montgomery, interim director of primary care NHS England, the NPA cited a significant increase in the cost of employing locum pharmacists in England as a reason for an increase in sector funding in 2022/23.  

It comes as a new report from the largest locum agency in the UK,  Locate a Locum, found that there was a 71% increase between 2020 and 2021 in the cost of employing locum pharmacists in England.  

Chief executive of the NPA, Mark Lyonette said there was a ‘heavy reliance’ on locums in community pharmacies to ‘maintain continuity of services with the average pharmacy operating 50 hours per week’.  

‘Consequently, increases in locum rates have a big effect on the cost base,’ he explained.  

Further cost pressures affecting pharmacy 

As well as a surge in locum rates, the increase in the general cost of living has also impacted pharmacies’ ability to provide services, the NPA explained. 

Mr Lyonette said: ‘Pharmacies face a range of general cost pressures beyond locum rates, including much higher energy costs. We hear a lot about the cost-of-living crisis; our members are facing a cost of doing business crisis and it’s every bit as real. 

‘The underlying underfunding, significant general inflationary pressures and specific cost increases relating to the locum workforce together make a powerful and urgent case for new funding,’ he added.  

The body also referred to an Ernst & Young study of the funding, policy and economic environment for independent community pharmacies, completed in 2020. In this, EY predicted a £497m deficit in community pharmacy funding and stated that the network was unsustainable under the current financial framework.  

Scotland the worst hit  

The report from Locate a Locum also found, which tracked locum rates across the UK, found that the largest increase in fees was in Scotland, with a 129% rise. 

Inverness was found to have the largest increase in Scotland, where contractors were paying on average 181% (£37.82) more per locum, per hour in 2021 than in 2020.  

The NPA said they would be raising the matter of increased locum fees with all four negotiators.