Community pharmacy contractors will get an extra 15p per prescribed item in their November advance payments.

Pharmacy minister Steve Brine confirmed the increase following the recognition of cash flow problems.

Cash flow challenges have been brought on by the combination of the Government’s funding cuts to English community pharmacy funding, reductions in Category M items and a rise in generic purchase prices, due to ongoing product shortages.

The increase will not generate extra funding to contractors but smooth out the impact of the expected decrease in payments’ value.

Welcoming change

Sue Sharpe, Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) chief executive, welcomed this positive action.

She said: ‘The pharmacy minister has responded to PSNC’s request for urgent measures to offer contractors some relief and this unprecedented action will help many pharmacies to manage the cash flow crisis over the next few weeks.

The move is being applied to the October payment due to the £15m drop in Category M reimbursement prices, made in August 2017, which had a more significant impact than expected.

Ben Merriman, a community pharmacist, said: ‘I do feel optimistic that this action at least means Mr Brine recognises the severe financial struggles community pharmacies across the country find themselves in.

‘I hope the PSNC can come to a solution to allow the sector to do what it does so well, prioritising the health and well-being of the patients in their communities by making countless thousands of positive health interventions every day.’

To little, too late?

But Ms Sharpe believes ‘there will be pharmacies for which this is too little and that it may be too late.’

The PSNC fears that contractors will keep facing financial pressures and that the Government will plan further funding cuts beyond 2018.

‘The impact of the imposed funding cuts is to discriminate against smaller urban pharmacies, many of which serve the most disadvantaged communities.

‘We hope we can work with the minister and with NHS England to review policies in the light of evidence not available when they were formed in late 2015,’ she said.

The Pharmacist contacted the Department of Health (DH) for comment.