Pharmacy bodies are working with NHS England (NHSE) to establish a 'robust approach' for the long-awaited economic review of the sector, they have told The Pharmacist.

But the Company Chemists’ Association (CCA) has raised concerns over the ‘slow pace of delivery’ as work now begins on the economic analysis that was promised as part of the pharmacy contract in 2022.

In a primary care bulletin sent last week, NHSE said pharmacies will soon be contacted by Frontier and IQVIA, who are carrying out the review, to take part in a data collection exercise.

Mike Dent, director of pharmacy funding at Community Pharmacy England (CPE), told The Pharmacist: ‘Ensuring a rigorous and robust approach takes time but it is vital for the future of the sector that the process is right.’

He said: ‘Pharmacy owners are under intolerable financial pressure, and providing a robust evidence base will be of critical importance to future CPCF negotiations.’

‘Community Pharmacy England has been involved with this project since the NHS England tender process and are continuing to provide an important sense-check for Frontier Economics and IQVIA as they establish the methodology.

The project has an Advisory Board and Working Group, which includes CPE staff and pharmacy owners, and these have met several times.

'We expect to continue intensive input throughout the design, data collection and analysis phases,’ added Mr Dent.

Gareth Jones, director of external affairs for the National Pharmacy Association (NPA), told The Pharmacist: ‘This economic analysis will generate data that could be highly significant in future contract negotiations, so we need the methodology to be robust and show a full and true picture.’

And Dr Leyla Hannbeck, chief executive of the Independent Pharmacies Association (IPA) said she was ‘pleased that several IPA members’ were part of the economic review group ‘and will be having the opportunity to make robust contributions to the discussions’.

But Malcolm Harrison, CCA chief executive, reiterated warnings that the Community Pharmacy Contractual Framework (CPCF) was not fit for purpose.

‘Whilst we welcome the commitment to hold an independent economic review, we remain concerned at the slow pace of delivery as pharmacies continue to close at an alarming rate,’ he said.

And he urged the incoming government and NHSE to ‘duly consider the findings of the economic review and ensure that community pharmacy receives the funding it needs to protect patient access to medicines’.

Jay Badenhorst, director of pharmacy at the Pharmacists’ Defence Association (PDA) said it was ‘good to see this initiative underway’, with the suppliers contacting pharmacies a ‘significant step’ in the process.

But he urged the review to include community pharmacy employees.

‘If they continue to talk exclusively to community pharmacy contractors, excluding the representatives of the healthcare professionals who deliver the services at the frontline, they will continue to see and potentially address only part of the issues faced by the sector. For instance, they might be addressing financial sustainability but not the impact on patient care or the working conditions of the professionals,’ he said.

‘It is imperative that the government engages in tripartite discussions regarding the delivery of this essential public service. These discussions should involve the workforce's representatives and those who represent the shareholders of the contractors they engage, ensuring that all voices are heard and valued,’ he added.

In the CPCF for 2022-24, NHSE committed to ‘commission an economic analysis of NHS pharmaceutical services through an independent review, using data provided by contractors’.

A report published last year by the Health and Social Care Committee (HSCC) that found the government’s progress on its commitments to support pharmacy ‘require improvement’.

It concluded that the lack of a review of the funding model had negatively impacted on delivery of several commitments across pharmacy.

But the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) rejected the committee’s claims that its commitment to review the community pharmacy model had not been met.