The Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) are refusing to enter into negotiations about the 6% budget cut, branding the decision the product of “ill-informed policy”.
The £170m cuts were made public in a letter sent from the Department of Health (DH) and NHS England to Sue Sharpe, the chief executive of PSNC on 17 December 2015.
The DH letter stated that the budget for 2016/17 would be reduced from £2.8bn to £2.63bn with the changes effective from October 2016.
Sharpe has now responded to Will Cavendish, the director general of innovation, growth and technology, and Keith Ridge, the chief pharmaceutical officer, saying they “cannot agree to commence negotiations before we have had an opportunity to understand fully your plans and the analysis underpinning them”.
Sharpe stated that she fears NHS England are aiming for an even larger funding cut for the year 2016/17 alongside reductions in pharmacy numbers and a drive towards a commoditised supply service, bypassing access to the support and advice available at community pharmacies.
“This is, I believe, at the heart of the policy underpinning your letter.
“The policy does not appear to have been formulated advised by expertise in community pharmacy.
“And there is an assumption that the care, advice and support community pharmacists give to their patients can be provided by pharmacists in general practices. This is wrong,” she said.
Sharpe also voiced concerns about the Pharmacy Integration Fund mentioned in the DH letter.
She notes it is not specifically for community pharmacy and will amount to just £20m in 2016/17, which she anticipates will be funnelled towards developing the role of pharmacists in GP practices.
Moreover the DH has been “entirely silent” on how to drive forward the “clinically focussed community pharmacy service” mentioned twice in the original letter.
Sharpe concluded: “The government appears to have a settled ambition to proceed on a course of action that will run counter to its stated ambition to develop a clinically focussed pharmacy service, and be damaging to patient care.
“It will miss the opportunity to develop the community pharmacy offer through well-evidenced service developments we have put forward, that will bring real value and cost-effectiveness to the NHS and support integrated working in primary care.
“We will not accept this.”