The Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) has commissioned Nuffield Trust and The King’s Fund to develop a new vision and strategic options for community pharmacy.

PSNC said that the resulting report, due next summer, will aim to demonstrate how community pharmacy can deliver value for money and better patient outcomes, unite the pharmacy sector behind shared goals, and develop a shared agenda and a case for a sustainably funded sector with government and NHS England. This will lay the foundations for the next Community Pharmacy Contractual Framework negotiations ahead of April 2024.

The need for the project comes out of recommendations from the Pharmacy Representation Review Steering Group (RSG) and forms one of the workstreams of the Transforming Pharmacy Representation Programme (TAPR) currently being undertaken by PSNC.

Inviting input from the sector

PSNC said that it would seek input from the wider pharmacy sector, starting in November, as well as other stakeholders including NHS England, policymakers within government and opposition, primary care commissioning leads in ICSs and patient representative groups.

PSNC chief executive Janet Morrison said one of the biggest challenges of the process was to ‘enable wider engagement and consultation’ while having conclusions ready for the summer ‘to really be able to inform the thinking that we will be doing about the next contractual framework.’

Independent authorship important to unite sector and carry weight with government

Ms Morrison emphasised that the independent nature of the report was necessary ‘if we are going to say anything valuable and important about the future’, but admitted that the findings could be controversial: ‘I'm imagining that there may be things in their final report that will annoy some people – hopefully not the same people, but hopefully we will spread out the annoyance!’

She also said that the independent authorship would help the report carry weight, both within the sector and with policymakers in government.

Ms Morrison said: ‘This won’t be a pharmacy wish list, but an independent, authoritative look at what we have to offer patients, but also at what we need to change ourselves. As two of the most highly regarded and influential organisations within the healthcare policy sector, when Nuffield Trust and The King’s Fund have something to say, Government and the NHS listen.’

Reviewing community pharmacy funding

The consultation process for the report will have four working groups looking at four key areas: services, funding, digital and technology and workforce challenges.

However, it will be separate to the NHS England independent economic review promised in the CPCF, which is likely to focus on building a commercial case for services, as well as PSNC’s own review of alternative funding models for pharmacy and PSNC’s work around the economic and social value of the pharmacy sector.

Ms Morrison said that although the report will include a funding working group ‘and no doubt a lot of people will be talking about [funding]’, the report ‘won’t really be doing that detailed work’ around developing an economic case for community pharmacy.

Meetings with NHS England around its economic review were yet to begin, ‘but it’s about to happen very soon,’ she said.

Ms Morrison said: ‘From my perspective, it's not possible to just look at an economic review of clinical services without understanding the core cost of being open, delivering on dispensing, and having capacity to deliver. So that's something that we will be talking to NHS England very strongly about. But I think perhaps I think they do understand that.’

She added that ‘what does need to come out is a real understanding of cost effectiveness compared with interventions in other parts of the health system’, saying that the NHS review needed to consider ‘the potential for community pharmacy to deliver something closer to patients within all communities more efficiently and more cost effectively.’