The PSNC has said it is escalating concerns over the process for setting price concessions to senior government officials, warning community pharmacy is subsidising the NHS medicines bill.

It said that of the ‘record’ 138 concessions granted in August, 99 prices were in line with PSNC requests, but 39 were imposed by the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) and failed to ‘match the purchase prices reported by contractors and the evidence of market prices’.

In particular, the PSNC raised concerns of the ‘final imposed prices’ of Aripiprazole and Temazepam tablets, which it said ‘has generated a lot of concern amongst contractors due to the large variation between their reimbursement prices and purchase prices during the month of August’.

This follows reported shortages of Aripiprazole throughout August and the issuing of a medicine supply notification for Aripiprazole 10mg tablets until late August.

The PSNC said that it was continuing to challenge these concessions and seek clarification from the DHSC about how the prices are set.

‘We understand DHSC objectives and that setting inflated concessionary prices would encourage gaming in the market at the taxpayers’ expense: this must be avoided,’ a statement on the PSNC website reads.

‘But we are clear that contractors cannot subsidise the NHS medicines bill and that it is untenable for there to be such a difference between concession and market prices for particular medicines. The concessions system is no longer coping with the current price volatility in the market.’

PSNC chief executive Janet Morrison described the record numbers of concessions and record low prices granted as ‘a grim milestone’, causing ‘chaos and very great worry for pharmacies across the country’.

She confirmed PSNC would be escalating the situation within DHSC and return to the issue as part of a ‘wider dialogue on unsustainable pressures in pharmacy’ when new ministers are in place. Liz Truss, who became Prime Minister today, is expected to announced her Cabinet soon.

Ms Morrison continued: ‘The current system is simply not coping with the realities of a global medicines market suffering shock after shock as it operates within a growing economic crisis, but we need urgently to find ways to ensure that pharmacies are not dispensing at a loss.

‘Pharmacies offer a critical health service and they must be funded fairly for the time and effort that goes into the vital job they do of making sure patients can access medicines in a timely manner. We need to see improvements in the concessions system, and to be assured about the quality of data being used by DHSC which doesn’t appear to match the reality for contractors on the ground.’

The statement comes amid ongoing calls from the PSNC for more funding for the sector, during what Ms Morrison has described as 'one of the toughest periods' ever faced by pharmacists.