Pharmacists have expressed disappointment with the new pharmacy funding settlement announced today (22 October), claiming funding pressures are becoming ‘unbearable’.

Following lengthy negotiations with the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC), PSNC revealed that pharmacy funding will remain at £2.692bn for 2018/19.

The Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) also said that the single activity fee (SAF) will be set at £1.26 from November – a three-pence drop compared to the current £1.29 – while category M prices will reduce by £10m a month between November and March 2019.

But contractors told The Pharmacist that the settlement does not reflect the current funding crisis, with increasing costs and price fluctuations.


‘Very disappointing’


Superintendent pharmacist of Bedminster pharmacy in Bristol Ade Williams welcomed PSNC’s ability to dismiss any further funding cuts but argued that the settlement was ‘very disappointing’.

He said: ‘The [current situation] isn’t sustainable and it’s going to be very painful because of a loss of income, the Falsified Medicines Directive (FMD) implementation and the on-going prices fluctuations.

‘We’re getting to the point where the pressures on contractors may start to become unbearable.’


Cat M and cashflow concerns


Echoing Mr Williams’ comments, the National Pharmacy Association (NPA) said that the news came as a ‘disappointment’ to many pharmacists who are ‘struggling under a heavy weight of costs that is hard to control’.

An NPA spokesperson said: ‘Our most immediate concern is the impact of the category M clawback, which could impair cash flow.

‘It is clearer than ever that we need a long-term settlement, which gives more certainty and enables the kind of investment that is necessary for sustainable change and improvement.

‘Hard working independent pharmacists deserve to feel that better times are ahead. What’s needed is clarity from the Government about their ambitions for the sector, and an assurance that productivity, quality and patient-centred results will be properly rewarded.’


Lack of resources


Mike Hewitson, superintendent pharmacist at Bedminster Pharmacy in Dorset, argued that a funding freeze cannot be welcomed in the light of increasing costs.

He added: ‘I understand why PSNC got to where they got to because they’re trying hard to rebuild a relationship [with the Government]. We’re going to have to see some form of green shoots of that relationship in the next 12 months in order to have faith in the direction of travel.

‘There needs to be a big transformation in the sector and for that to happen PSNC needs to transform itself. I think we would get better results if PSNC was given the resources it needs.

‘I’m not proposing that contractors put their hands in their pockets more but, for example, maybe local professional committees (LPCs) should give more to PSNC to help them drive change.’

Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) England board Chair Sandra Gidley said she was pleased the negotiations had now started between PSNC and NHS England.

However, she continued: ‘Given inflation and rising workload, this is still effectively a cut. It will do little to relieve the pressure on pharmacies and the teams they employ.’


‘Difficult decision’


Earlier today, PSNC chief executive Simon Dukes said that he expected pharmacists to be disappointed with the new funding settlement and accepting this funding offer was a difficult decision to make.

‘We were very mindful of the proposals we had seen previously to reduce funding by £33m this year, and in that context, along with the backdrop of uncertainty in the wider economic climate, we knew that pharmacy was not going to get a better offer from the Government,’ he said.

‘We must not underestimate the scale of the challenges ahead and we must make our case using evidence, through strategic influencing and by demonstrating that we are a sector innovating and embracing change and new technologies to deliver the outcomes that the Government wants.’

The Pharmacist has approached the DHSC for comment.