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CCA chief to NHS England: Help prevent ‘gradual erosion’ of pharmacy

NHS England must work with the sector to prevent a “gradual erosion" of patient care, the chief executive of the Company Chemists’ Association (CCA) has said.

The level of funding available to community pharmacy in England “cannot sustain the current scale of the network”, Malcolm Harrison, chief executive of the CCA – which represents the UK’s largest multiples and supermarket pharmacies – warned at a Westminster Health Forum event in London last week (November 20).

There is already evidence of increasing pressures affecting the pharmacy workforce, he said, calling on NHS England to work with the sector to ensure the “continual squeeze” of funding does not also impact the “quality and safety of care for patients”.

“Many of the issues that affect our ability to support the delivery of local services lie at a national level, including funding, workforce and legislative and regulatory reform,” Mr Harrison said.

“We call upon NHS England to use our operational experience and expertise to ensure…uniformity across the whole country.”

25% real-time funding cut

The new pharmacy contract – which sees funding remain at its reduced level of £2.592 billion a year for the next five years – is “part of a continual drive by the government to get more for less, or more for the same”, Mr Harrison said.

He estimated that the sector will see a real-time funding cut of 25% between 2014 and 2024, based on the level of funding available to community pharmacies in that period.

Despite some funding being made available for contractors to “earn back”, this is only through “the delivery of additional workload”, he stressed.

“All this cutting, moving and ring-fencing means there's very little capacity left in the network,” Mr Harrison explained.

Workforce pressures

On top of the funding pressures, NHS England’s aim of having six pharmacists working in each of the 1,300 primary care networks by 2023-24 will cause an “osmotic draw” on the sector’s workforce, he warned.

This, along with the falling number of applicants to pharmacy schools over the last few years, will “exacerbate” existing challenges, Mr Harrison claimed.

“Facilitating portfolio careers” and allowing professionals to work across different settings may help to alleviate this pressure, he suggested.

The sector, NHS England and other bodies must work together “to ensure that community pharmacy can continue to deliver safe and effective pharmacy services for the patients of today and tomorrow”, Mr Harrison said.

How is your pharmacy coping with the funding pressures?

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