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‘This new contract will fundamentally reshape community pharmacy’

The new pharmacy contract has opportunities for contractors, although it is a funding reduction in real terms, says Numark’s Jeremy Meader

This week has been monumental in British politics.

Besieged by controversy, our new Prime Minister Boris Johnson has taken up the reigns of the monumental task of reaching a consensus on Brexit, which his predecessor couldn’t do due to parliament being fundamentally divided on the matter. He has a huge task on his hands.

Similarly, following Monday’s publication of the new Community Pharmacy Contractual Framework, Numark's members, and indeed all pharmacy contractors in England, face an unenviable challenge.

The new framework will fundamentally reshape pharmacy in terms of the provision of services and how these are remunerated over the next five years.

The Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee’s (PSNC) team faced a difficult challenge in rebuilding a relationship with the paymaster after a turbulent few years, negotiating while the health service faces escalating demand and increasing costs, with a digitally progressive, well informed, health-savvy population.

In theory, a five-year funding agreement should provide the certainty that community pharmacy so desperately needs. The reality appears to be somewhat different. While going some way to acknowledging the importance of community pharmacy in delivering improved health outcomes at the heart of local communities, it’s hard not to be disappointed the government hasn’t recognised this through increased funding. Community pharmacy’s cost base is rising across inflation, wages and locum rates, to name but a few.

In real terms, a flat sum of £13 billion over the next five years represents a reduction in funding each year.

Numark is committed to ensuring community pharmacy is the destination for patients both wanting to ‘stay well’, as well as those managing more complex long-term conditions. We are sympathetic to the frustrations contractors will experience as a result of the new framework. That said, it is critical that we embrace the community pharmacy service agenda and the opportunities it provides for remuneration.

More clarity is needed, and quickly, regarding the £223 million of currently “unallocated funding” for 2020-21. We are wholly committed to supporting our members to face these challenges whether through maximising new opportunities, optimising profitability or developing strategic service support that reflects the new contract.

In the words of our newly appointed Prime Minister: “Do not underestimate our powers of organisation and our determination, because we know the enormous strengths of this economy.”

Let’s recognise the enormous strengths of our local community pharmacies in England and not underestimate the opportunities available to deliver exceptional standards of care in spite of the funding challenges we face.

Together we’re stronger.

Jeremy Meader is managing director of pharmacy support group Numark

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