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Minor ailment referrals to be discussed, as funding talks start

Funding negotiations for the 2019-20 pharmacy contract have started, with the possibility of a national minor illness referral service up for discussion, PSNC has said.

The Department of Health and Social Care (DH) and NHS England have agreed a set of proposals for the 2019-20 pharmacy contract “and beyond”, the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) said this afternoon (April 9).

They have now been shared with PSNC, officially starting the contract negotiations, it added.

“The discussions will be complex,” PSNC said, adding that it, the DH and NHS England have agreed to keep the negotiations “confidential, to facilitate frank and open discussion”.

However, from details in the NHS long-term plan and the new GP contract, PSNC expects discussions to include the possible rollout of a “national minor illnesses referral service via NHS 111, and the piloting of referrals to community pharmacy from other settings such as GPs and NHS.UK”.

“The future of the healthy living pharmacy programme and the effective use of the Pharmacy Integration Fund” will also form part of the discussions, PSNC said.

Announcing the interim funding arrangements last month, the negotiator said discussions around the future of the medicines use review (MUR) service would also form part of contract talks. This was confirmed in today's announcement.

Challenging reimbursement discussions 

PSNC chief executive Simon Dukes said he expects “some difficult conversations over the coming months”, particularly around funding and reimbursement.

“Our negotiating team includes experienced PSNC members from both the independent and multiple sectors, so contractors can be assured that we will be well equipped and absolutely committed to getting the best possible deal for community pharmacy,” he added.

“Our priority is to seek a sustainable future for community pharmacy to enable us to better utilise the skills and knowledge of pharmacy teams to help people stay well in the community.”

Matt Hancock wants more efficient pharmacy services

Health secretary Matt Hancock said he is “pleased” contract negotiations have started.

“As part of the long-term plan for the NHS we want to see pharmacies deliver a wider range of more efficient services and give patients more control over their care and personal health,” he explained.

The start of contract negotiations – guided by the new public health minister Seema Kennedy – signals an important step in delivering that ambition, he added.

What do you make of the proposals outlined for pharmacy contract negotiations?

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