The Pharmaceutical Service Negotiating Committee (PSNC) has said it is ‘not clear’ when the Community Pharmacy Contractual Framework (CPCF) will be signed off by the Government.

In a statement yesterday (4 August), it said the agreed timetable for the rollout of CPCF for 2022/23 - the fourth year of the agreed CPCF five-year deal – will ‘now not be met’, after recent changes in ministerial teams at the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) and the Treasury, which includes new health and social care secretary Steve Barclay.

PSNC said that it agreed an outline offer with DHSC and NHS England (NHSE) in the early summer after negotiations in spring, but the approval of the contract has been delayed.

It continued: ‘[The deal] is subject to cross-government agreement as is normal process. However, the change in ministerial teams at the DHSC and HM Treasury mean that this has been delayed.

‘Although we understand that officials are pressing hard for approval, and working in difficult circumstances, in the current situation it is not clear whether or when sign off and announcements will be forthcoming.’

Because the timetable for rollout agreed as part of the deal will no longer be met, PSNC said it has agreed with DHSC and NHSE that ‘individual elements of the timeline will necessarily need to be finalised once we are able to communicate to the sector’.

Janet Morrison, PSNC chief executive, said the body was ‘disappointed not to be able to provide contractors with more certainty at the time’, but that it will issue an update when possible.

Although PSNC highlighted a ‘worsening’ economic situation for contractors since the outline deal was agreed to DHSC and NHSE, all bodies are ‘being impacted by wider political events’ meaning there is ‘no clear timetable for when we will be able to make an announcement to the sector’, she added.

She continued: ‘These were difficult negotiations, and it is worrying that things are getting ever worse for contractors and that timescales are uncertain.’

Commenting on the delay, Andrew Lane, National Pharmacy Association chair, said the delay in communicating the results of negotiations is ‘unfair to pharmacies already dealing with rampant inflation and long-term under-funding'.

He continued: ‘We are deep into the financial year and still contractors are none the wiser about the funding arrangements agreed behind closed doors. Whilst the current political upheaval might explain some of the delay, the problem is in fact more deep-seated and reflects an institutional neglect of the community pharmacy sector.

‘Individual officials are no doubt doing their best to get the final sign-offs in difficult circumstances, but the whole set up of England’s contractual arrangements lacks the urgency and transparency our members deserve.

‘Pharmacy contractors should not have to run their business affairs blind to the key financial numbers and fearing a clawback. The retrospective elements of pharmacy funding are a barrier to investment and careful planning.’

The start to negotiations had already been delayed because of a ‘high volume of urgent Covid-19 work which has been prioritised’ by the Government, PSNC explained in February.

In January, PSNC said that the pharmacy sector will not see additional funding as part of the CPCF for the two remaining years of the deal.