Community pharmacies in England require ‘further support’ from the Government in light of the ‘extremely challenging winter period’ ahead, PSNC has said. 

This comes as PSNC has received reports from contractors of ‘mounting pressures’, ‘workforce problems’ along with ‘capacity issues’, and a ‘rise in staffing costs’ this winter.   

In a statement, published on its website last week (3 December), PSNC said it was in discussions with the Government and NHS England and Improvement (NHSE&I) to highlight the impact of the vaccination programme on all community pharmacies and to call for key measures to be put in place.  

‘While those pharmacies offering Covid-19 vaccinations will be asked to divert more resources to that programme, posing challenges of its own, other pharmacies can also expect an increase in activity as the focus on booster vaccinations absorbs more of their colleagues’ and general practice time,’ PSNC said.  

They added: ‘With around 80% of general practices offering Covid-19 vaccinations and now being asked to ramp up their efforts, pharmacies can expect the current trend in increasing walk-in and phone call requests for advice and support from patients to be exacerbated.’ 

It comes as 300 additional pharmacies have been recruited to the Covid vaccination programme.  

The body is seeking additional support to ease the pressure on all contractors, which could include regulatory support, the removal of administrative burdens and changes to the current Pharmacy Quality Scheme (PQS). 

PSNC said that measures put in place to help pharmacy teams would ‘be in line’ with the current support that has been given to general practice.  

Bharat Patel, vice chair of PSNC and an independent contractor, said that ‘pressures on pharmacy teams are mounting’.  

He added: ‘We urgently need the NHS and Government to take steps to relieve this to help us continue to do what we do best – helping every patient who walks through our doors, whatever they need.’

In October, The Pharmacist reported that contractors were calling for PSNC to put pressure on NHSE to extend the PQS completion time frame in light of the additional pressure the sector is facing this year. 

The PQS for this year (2021/22) had already been adjusted in August to take into account for additional pressures this winter. 

PSNC told The Pharmacist that they are unlikely to approach NHS England (NHSE) for additional time for contractors this winter.  

As it stands, contractors have until 25 February to complete the quality criteria to then be eligible for the £75m funding. Contractors will also be able to claim an aspiration payment later in the year. 

PSNC added that over the ‘coming weeks’ it would be running a pharmacy pressures survey and a Pharmacy Advice Audit. Information gathered from these questionnaires will be used as evidence to inform our conversations with the Government and will help to ‘demonstrate the urgent need for intervention to support pharmacies,’ they said.