The community pharmacy negotiator is looking to ensure that Pharmacy First funding is included within the contractual framework and uplifted for inflation, an increase in activity and service expansion.

Janet Morrison, chief executive of Community Pharmacy England (CPE), described the service as ‘strategically significant’, a ‘success’, and the biggest investment in the sector for 10 years.

Community pharmacies have carried out more than 580,000 Pharmacy First consultations to date, she said in a video released yesterday.

And nearly all (96.5%) pharmacies have signed up to deliver the service in England.

Government and community pharmacy ‘have a shared objective for Pharmacy First to be successful’, she said.

Where does the £645m Pharmacy First funding go?

Ms Morrison said the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) and NHS England (NHSE) had worked hard to ‘scrape’ together the £645m investment in the sector.

And she noted that ‘not all of it’ was for Pharmacy First payments.

The £645m investment included a £112m write-off of funding over-delivery and £150m for pharmacy blood pressure and contraception services.

‘Critically’, the funding also included the development of an interoperable IT system with general practice, Ms Morrison said.

GPs are currently threatening to turn off parts of the interoperable system.

‘We want to make sure as much of the remainder of that money comes to you,’ Ms Morrison told contractors.

'We cannot deliver Pharmacy First if we're closing'

Ms Morrison also said that CPE wanted to make sure that 'as much as possible of that funding' was 'added into the future contractual framework automatically and then uplifted – of course for inflation and activity increase – but also for expansion in the future'.

‘To meet those manifesto commitments that money will have to grow,’ she added.

‘We cannot deliver Pharmacy First if we’re closing.’

Contractors need a ‘sustainable settlement’ to be able to ‘pay our bills’, ‘support our teams’, and ‘deliver quality services to patients’, she Ms Morrison said.

‘If ministers commit to Pharmacy First, they also need us to stay open and be sustainable businesses. And therefore [Pharmacy First] is critical to us arguing that they have to do something more to arrest what has been the most awful funding crisis that we are facing now. So therefore that investment has to be supported by a better contractual framework deal.’

'Cliff-edge' of monthly targets

Ms Morrison also highlighted ‘cliff-edge’ monthly consultation targets facing pharmacies in the autumn.

Sore throats were one of the most seen Pharmacy First conditions. But Ms Morrison warned that the seasonality of this condition might impact pharmacies' ability to meet the targets.

Pharmacies must conduct a minimum number of consultations to receive a monthly payment of £1,000. From August, this will rise to 20 per pharmacy, and then to 30 from October.

Ms Morrison said that CPE had previously ‘argued really hard’ that the targets were ‘completely unreasonable’.

Those concerns remained, despite the increased targets being delayed to later in the year, Ms Morrison said.

‘Let’s try and sort it out, because what we don’t want at all is have anything that diminishes the commitment and support from community pharmacies for the service,’ she said.

In particular, Ms Morrison said pharmacies were reliant on NHSE to DHSC to ‘drive the business to us’, including through marketing, promotion, ‘major public behaviour change’, as well as referrals.

In addition, she stressed that ‘patchy’ referrals across the country needed to be improved.

‘We have to see effort and energy put in to improving that so that GPs can get the benefit from Pharmacy First, which is relieving the pressure on GP appointments,’ Ms Morrison added.