Negotiations between Community Pharmacy England (CPE), ministers and NHS England on a new national Pharmacy First scheme are ‘on track’ to reach agreement this month.
Under the current timescales, it has been suggested that a range of expanded pharmacy services announced in May could also be implemented in July.
In a statement to the sector this week, CPE chief executive Janet Morrison said the organisation was ‘working at pace’ with the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) and NHS England, but noted that the ‘process and timing of negotiations are not in our gift’.
She added: ‘The negotiations are complex and critical since we hope they will have implications for the foundations of the next contractual framework, so it’s vital that we approach them with rigour and aim to future proof payment structures.’
There are several issues being discussed, including service expansions of Hypertension Case-Finding and the Pharmacy Contraception Scheme, as well as ‘service design’ for the incoming national Pharmacy First programme.
Ms Morrison added that CPE was in the midst of ‘in-depth negotiations on payment models’.
The government and NHS England announced a £645m investment into community pharmacy in May, to go towards the existing contraception and hypertension services, as well as a brand new common conditions scheme.
At the time, while the pharmacy sector largely welcomed the additional investment, many questions whether it would be enough to fill the gaps in funding that has grown over recent years.
Ms Morrison added in her statement this week: ‘These discussions critically look at the balance between funding core capacity and activity payments, how the funding streams will be distributed and how we will measure delivery and impact.’
In addition, she highlighted that NHS England had been ‘leading on the development’ of the patient group directions (PGD) pathways for each of the seven conditions within the new common conditions service.
External medical, pharmacy and other experts were ‘feeding into the process’ and pharmacy owners from within the CPE committee have also been involved in discussions. Ms Morrison stressed however that these discussions were ‘clinically led to ensure they comply with NICE principles and concur with Antimicrobial Stewardship policy’.
Discussions had also centred on ‘interoperability of GP and pharmacy systems to support pathways for the common conditions service’, something she said was ‘essential to the service’s start date’. This was being done through a working group led by NHS England with system suppliers, and representation from CPE.
The overall negotiating process ‘remains on track with the government’s original timescale’, said Ms Morrison who added that this meant the organisation was ‘aiming for agreement in July’.
Cross-government clearance was expected later in July and implementation of the agreements were set to come from July through to September, she added.