Contractors should consider not providing patients with free blood pressure checks and other free-of-charge provisions that fall outside the Community Pharmacy Contractual Framework (CPCF), the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) has said.
The Covid-19 pandemic has meant that pharmacies have picked up other primary care work that does not fall within the remit of the CPCF, PSNC said, including helping patients to use health monitoring equipment, delivering medication to vulnerable patients, helping patients reorder repeat prescriptions and taking blood pressure readings.
But the body is now advising contractors to either not carry out these services or charge patients for them, as this work is not funded via the CPCF.
Simon Dukes, PSNC chief executive, said: ‘I have to advise contractors that given the very treacherous financial situation which many pharmacies are in, that it is simply not possible for many to continue to offer extra services free of charge.
‘This advice is not given lightly – of course all community pharmacies want to do all that they can for the benefit of their patients. But as a sector we have for many years offered services free of charge or at a tariff that does not even cover our costs, and this simply is not sustainable in the current funding environment.
He added: ‘Without action to balance costs, the core professional services of pharmacies may all be at risk, and this would have a significant and detrimental impact on patients which must be avoided.’
Bharat Patel, owner of Sandylight Limited and a PSNC committee member, told the Pharmacist that his pharmacies are now undertaking an estimated 15 to 20% extra consultations per day than they were pre-Covid. He has also had to employ another part time delivery driver to deliver additional medications to patients who are isolating.
He said that while GPs have worked behind closed doors ‘patients have been trying to find solutions to healthcare problems in their community pharmacy that they can’t find elsewhere, so we’ve been busier than ever before’.
He added: ‘But because of capacity issues, some services which we provided free of charge before [the pandemic] we now don’t because it’s untenable – we can no longer afford to provide them. Instead, we’ve had to put money towards paying staff for extra hours.’
The negotiating body is in discussions with the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) in an attempt to get a further funding uplift for the sector for Covid-19 related expenditures.
However, to date, there is ‘no further funding available’ and therefore pharmacies should consider’ [introducing] charges for some services on a cost recovery basis,’ Mr Dukes said.