Pharmacy leaders have warned the Government against going back on its promise to re-think a 6% cut to pharmacy funding in 2016/17.
A letter sent this week by Department of Health officials to pharmacy stakeholders says that, after some negotiations, a funding package will be announced in mid-October to be implemented from December.
But just earlier this month new Pharmacy Minister David Mowat announced he would put the cuts to pharmacy funding in England on hold amid talks of efficiency measures.
He told delegates at the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) conference in Birmingham on 5 September that he would “take time to make the correct decision” and would have a dialogue with the sector going forward.
Sandra Gidley, RPS England Board Chair said: “I welcomed the Government’s recent announcement at the RPS conference that Ministers wanted to ‘pause and reflect’ on the proposed community pharmacy reforms.
“I am heartened that the recently published Community Pharmacy Forward View and PWC report on ‘The value of pharmacy’ have had impact; the Department of Health have assured us that these reports will be taken into account during the final decision making period.
“However, I am concerned that the timetable announced today means the time for further discussion is short.
“It is now time for the Minister to take action and match the reality with his warm words in response to the PWC report, and truly put pharmacists at the heart of primary care.”
The Local Government Association warned earlier this year that community pharmacies are at risk of going out of business because of the planned 6% cut to community pharmacy funding in the NHS budget for 2016/17.
Ian Strachan, National Pharmacy Association (NPA) Chairman, said: “In what sense is this short stay of execution ‘taking the time to make the right decision’? How is a few weeks’ notice adequate time for the pharmacy sector to prepare for the changes? And in what sense is a brief negotiation behind closed doors the ongoing dialogue we were promised just days ago?
“We urge the Minister to be true to his word. He should take the time to get things right for the sector, right for the NHS and right for patients and communities. He should open a genuine dialogue with the sector about the way forward. To be meaningful, such dialogue must be based on genuinely fresh thinking – it would make no sense to take as a starting point the discredited and universally unpopular proposals of December 2015.”
The Department of Health has said that it aims to announce a package of community pharmacy reforms by mid-October, to be implemented from 1 December.
The RPS English Board added in a statement that any cut to community pharmacy, and primary care generally, is “short sighted” if the Government is committed to its stated aim of investing in primary care and prevention of ill health.