Outgoing PSNC CEO has called funding negotiations with the Treasury an ‘uphill struggle’ as the sector effectively faces a pay freeze for the next three years.  

Speaking at the annual LMC conference today (16 September), Simon Dukes, PSNC's CEO, reflected on the difficulties the body was is now facing following the Treasury's rejection of an uplift to core funding back in August. 

At the time, Mr Dukes said contractors should feel ‘aggrieved’ by the lack of additional funding.  

‘Our challenge with Treasury, officials and ministers is to get them to understand that by giving us effectively a pay freeze [while pharmacy is facing] capacity and cost issues, they are putting the sector under the most enormous strain at a time when the NHS needs the sector most,’ he said today.  

Earlier this year, the Government also announced it would begin recouping the £370m Covid loan from October, seeking repayments in six equal monthly sums. 

He went on to explain that PSNC’s bid for an uplift to core funding was timed specifically so it would be included in the discussions for the Government’s spending review for 2021 (SR21). 

SR21 sets out the Government’s spending plans for the next three financial years, spanning from 2022-2025. Since there are only two years left of the current community pharmacy contractual framework (CPCF), this review decision is likely to impact the first year of the next CPCF agreement. 

‘What the Treasury have effectively said by rejecting our bid is that there is no more money for community pharmacy for the remainder of the contractual framework and with a glass half empty view, that also includes the first year of the next CPCF’, Mr Dukes said.  

The case for more funding made note of pressures the Covid-19 pandemic has placed on the sector over the last few months, namely the huge volumes of additional work.  

This included more informal patient consultations being undertaken in pharmacies due to other areas of primary care working behind closed doors or partially shutting down. 

Earlier this month, The Pharmacist reported that the amount of Covid costs claimed by contractors was ‘significantly higher’ than the amount initially offered by the Government.  

At the same conference, Mr Dukes spoke about plans for the next CPCF which is due to begin in April 2023.  

He said that there will be a ‘lot of focus on capacity and costs,’ as contractors suffer from ‘rising salaries, increasing national insurance, inflation’. 

‘Clearly, as a sector, we are being squeezed far more than we ever envisioned for the initial contractual framework back in 2019,’ he said.  

Mr Dukes said the body will use the information it has gathered from an audit as well as research from external partners to provide with the data they need to ‘help influence decision-makers both within the NHS and the Government’ for the next CPCF. 

The Treasury has been approached for comment.