Pharmacy contractors now have until 11.59pm on Thursday 21st March 2024 to submit their payment claims for Pharmacy First services delivered in February, the NHS Business Services Authority (NHSBSA) has announced.

It told The Pharmacist today that it had been 'directed' to extend the deadline by NHS England (NHSE) and the government.

NHSBSA also said that contractors should still receive their Pharmacy First payment on 1 May 2024 if they submit their February claim by the revised deadline.

This comes as a ‘backlog of unresolved issues’ with Pharmacy First IT systems have had an ‘unacceptable impact’ on pharmacy owners and teams and caused concerns about the impact on patients, Community Pharmacy England (CPE) said last night.

The negotiator added that it was ‘continuing to escalate this matter within NHS England and the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC), raising serious concerns about the management of the issues and their unacceptable impact on pharmacy owners and their teams’.

And it said it would be ‘pressing for urgent action’ to resolve the issues, ‘secure the payment mechanism and restore pharmacy owner confidence’.

Today, NHSBSA told The Pharmacist it was ‘doing everything we can to support IT system suppliers with their ongoing issues with the data that flows into our Manage Your Service (MYS) portal.'

It added: 'NHS England and DHSC yesterday directed us to extend the submission deadline for February Pharmacy First claims.

'We still do not anticipate that these issues will affect payments to pharmacies and we will update pharmacy contractors as soon as we have further information.'

In a statement released last night, CPE chief executive Janet Morrison said that ‘a combination of IT hurdles’ over the past week have had an ‘unacceptable’ effect on pharmacy teams’ workload and stress.

She added that the negotiator was ‘extremely concerned about the impact on both providers and patients’ and was pressing government and the NHS for ‘urgent action’ to resolve the issues and ‘restore faith in the data and payment mechanism’.

Ms Morrison highlighted that the issues had hit amid pharmacy teams working ‘exceptionally hard to prepare for and deliver the Pharmacy First service since launch’.

And she stressed that community pharmacies should be ‘fairly recompensed for their hard work in delivering a vital new service’.

CPE said that any pharmacy owners who notice discrepancies on their Manage Your Service (MYS) submission should continue to work with their Pharmacy First IT system supplier helpdesk to escalate the issue, and should not confirm their claims in MYS until the issue has been resolved.

If they have submitted a claim with incorrect information, contractors should email the MYS team, CPE said. It added that it had requested further clarification on how incorrect claims would be reviewed, and would provide a further update when available.

If contractors miss the 21 March deadline, they can still make a submission within three months of 5 March 2024 – although this will result in a delayed payment. And any submissions made after three months will not be accepted by the NHSBSA, CPE explained.

Earlier this week, the negotiator called out 'significant problems’ with community pharmacy IT and said it had ‘insisted that pharmacies must not end up being out of pocket because of IT problems which are outside of their control’.

It follows issues around ‘discrepancies’ in the number of urgent medicine consultations recorded under Pharmacy First in England and earlier concerns raised by the National Pharmacy Association (NPA) that the MYS portal had been incorrectly recording the number of Pharmacy First consultations.

Issues were also raised last week about a multi-factor authentication update to PharmOutcomes – a system used by pharmacies to manage Pharmacy First referrals – which reportedly ‘caused havoc’ for pharmacists.

As of 12 February 2024, over 32,000 consultations had been delivered in community pharmacy in England under the seven Pharmacy First clinical pathways, according to NHS England (NHSE)’s head of delivery for community pharmacy clinical strategy.

Pharmacy First in England was supposed to be underpinned by an 'interoperable' IT system that would 'streamline' the referral process.

But in order to make the 31 January launch date, the community pharmacy negotiator 'agreed a minimum viable product' using existing Community Pharmacy Consultation Scheme (CPCS) referral routes, Ms Morrison recently told a parliamentary inquiry.

And the promised updates could still be weeks away, chief pharmaceutical officer for England David Webb suggested recently.