Community pharmacies will be using the next six months to focus on ‘survival’ amid mounting pressures and an ongoing wait for promised funding, sector leaders have told delegates at this year’s Pharmacy Show.

However, even the long-awaited £645m planned for the sector under the recent primary care recovery plan will not go far enough to fulfil the sector’s needs, and additional money from the NHS or government seems unlikely, they warned.

In a keynote discussion session about the future of clinical pharmacy at the conference, sector leaders were agreed that over the next six months, community pharmacies would be focusing on surviving.

Dr Leyla Hannbeck, chief executive of the Association of Independent Multiple Pharmacies, warned of closures across the sector.

‘We have to do everything we can to make sure that people have the means to get their heads above the water as long as they possibly can, and survive,’ she said.

Meanwhile, Nick Kaye, chair of the National Pharmacy Association (NPA), suggested that as a pharmacy owner he was looking forward to the £645m reaching the sector.

‘I would use the next six months, as a pharmacy owner, for survival, until we get primary care recovery plan monies out, especially as far as England is concerned,’ he told delegates at the conference being held in Birmingham.

Alastair Buxton, director of NHS services at Community Pharmacy England (CPE), said that the money allocated to the sector in the primary care recovery plan would ‘help’, but warned it was ‘not going to solve it all’.

And he cautioned the sector to be realistic about what they could expect from the government.

‘It is a really hard time out there for governments at the moment,’ he said.

Mr Buxton said that he hoped that negotiations on the contract for the next year would begin ‘very soon’ after the negotiations on the £645m – ‘which seem to be going on for a very long time’ – conclude.

But he added: ‘The challenge is that we are coming to the end of a financial spending period, so there isn't going to be significant additional money that has been planned by the government in that period, I think we have to be realistic about that.’

He said that even if a general election brought a change of government, it was unlikely that the sector would be given a ‘massive new budget’.

While he praised shadow health secretary Wes Streeting for talking about investing in primary care, he said that that would require ‘shifting money out of secondary care’ – something which he said the NHS has been talking about ‘for decades, and not achieving it’.

In the meantime, he said that for pharmacy contractors, ‘looking at how we can at least start to provide more clinical services is going to be a key area to try to keep the wolf from the door’.

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