There is ‘a real question mark’ as to whether pharmacies will be able to offer the extra services that Health Secretary Dr Thérèse Coffey has said will free up two million GP appointments, Janet Morrison, chief executive officer of the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee, has said.

‘I think what contractors would be saying to us now is that capacity is really stretched in terms of delivering current services,’ Ms Morrison said.

‘Although they're in favour of the opportunities of being able to deliver more advanced services and to do more to support the NHS, there's just a real question mark now about whether they're able to do so. I think without further funding, that it's a real question mark.’

The Community Pharmacy Contractual Framework for 22/23 and 23/24 was published yesterday - alongside Dr Coffey’s Plan for Patients.

It included elements which would seem to support Dr Coffey’s vision for pharmacy to free up GP capacity, such as a new Pharmacy Contraception Service. However, it included no new funding for community pharmacy, other than a £100m write-off of the excess margin owed by the sector as a whole.

Ms Morrison described the flat five-year funding deal as a cut in real terms.

‘We have warned Department of Health and NHS England that they were wanting to use this five year contract to demonstrate the scope of what community pharmacy can do in delivering clinical services, but because of the underlying, effective cut that they've put into the system – and some of the impacts that we probably couldn't have ever foreseen at the beginning of a five year deal in terms of not just the pandemic coming along, but also in terms of inflationary pressures, and continuing workforce pressures – that actually the ability to be able to demonstrate the value of community pharmacy is now going to start being questioned and diminished,’ Ms Morrison said.

She described the situation as ‘a real shame’ and a ‘missed opportunity’ to build on additional services that were delivered by community pharmacy during the pandemic.

‘If they put a further investment in now, I think we could really be building a much more solid basis for proving the worth of community promising clinical services. So it seems like a missed opportunity, and in a sense might actually work in the opposite way to sort of say well, oh, can they deliver anyway? Which is a real waste,’ Ms Morrison said.