Funding currently given to GP practices to recruit pharmacists should be redirected to community pharmacy to use for clinical services, the chair of the National Pharmacy Association, Andrew Lane, has said.

He told delegates at the 2023 Sigma Conference that while community pharmacy was held in high regard, particularly due to its role during the Covid-19 pandemic, it was now being ‘choked’ and was under more pressure than ever.

He said that community pharmacy needed to ‘think differently and think big’, but that a ‘complete transformation’ of the contractual framework was required to make it viable for community pharmacies to take on more clinical services.

‘The basic idea that pharmacies will be viable by taking on new services is not supported by the contract structure or its associated funding’ he said.

‘By and large we’re all agreed on the need to take a clinically focused journey’, he said, but added that it must be integrated with the NHS and adequately funded.

For instance, he said that pharmacies should be paid in a timely manner ‘that incentivises investment’, and that services should be built on supply.

And as a ‘quick win’, he said that he wanted to see NHS England ‘restore some of the clinical capacity sucked out of community pharmacy by the ARRS system’, and reallocate the funding given to GPs for clinical pharmacists to community pharmacy for investment in clinical services.

‘How can it be OK that this increases while community pharmacy funding decreases?’ he said.

Mr Lane also said that there needed to be a ‘rebalancing of power’ within the contractual negotiation. He said that there was a strong argument for independent arbitration, suggesting that independent financial regulation would help mitigate the risk of ‘short term gain at the cost of sustainability’.