NPA: More pharmacy closures unless ‘substantial’ new funding found
There will be further pharmacy closures “unless other, substantial sources of income can be found”, National Pharmacy Association (NPA) chair Andrew Lane has warned.
The funding contract for England – which saw the global sum frozen for five years – “won’t be enough to keep the doors open” of some pharmacies, Mr Lane said at a Westminster Health Forum event in London last week (November 20).
Reiterating the NPA’s warning from before the pharmacy contract was unveiled in July, Mr Lane said the core funding is “very unlikely to be enough to achieve the transformation and improvements the NHS and pharmacists would like to see” and that alternative sources of funding have to be found.
“We need a sustainable business model which delivers a fair return on investment,” he stressed.
“Rock bottom resources”
Community pharmacies have “hit rock bottom in terms of resources”, Mr Lane added, and teams face an uphill battle to provide the quality services they are committed to.
“What we’re now seeing is a really motivated workforce that wants to deliver, but is struggling because of the extra pressures we face: the constriction on our teams and the constriction of funding we’ve seen over the last few years,” he said.
“The current situation is not only a disincentive to invest, but also means that many of us are struggling to find the time to engage in new ventures.”
Enable pharmacy to engage with PCNs
One of the knock-on effects of the restricted funding is that many pharmacists and local pharmaceutical committee (LPC) leaders “struggle to find time to engage in new ventures”, including becoming involved with primary care networks (PCNs), Mr Lane – who is also chair of Gloucestershire LPC – said.
If this trend continues, there is “a risk of a widening gap [between] where contractors are now and where the NHS needs us to be”.
One solution could be a funding structure that better facilitates the involvement of community pharmacy in PCNs, Mr Lane suggested.
The new contract acknowledges that community pharmacy might experience “pressures in relation to the engagement with local PCNs” and introduces a monthly transitional payment to cover costs associated with this.
However, Mr Lane indicated that a wider system change might be necessary to enable pharmacies to fully participate in PCNs.
“Maybe we need to have another system within community pharmacy that funds local pharmacists to attend many of these primary care meetings.”
This could give LPC members the opportunity to “get out there” and really “start building relationships with PCNs”, Mr Lane said.