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PSNC: GP contract could lead to ‘further’ pharmacy closures

The GP contract for the next four years puts more “financial stress” on the pharmacy sector and could lead to “further” pharmacy closures, PSNC has warned.

The demand for pharmacy staff will rise and with it the “cost of labour, a position which seems all the more untenable given the complete refusal of the government and NHS to recognise pharmacies’ costs in delivering their ambitions set out in the Community Pharmacy Contractual Framework”, the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee CEO Simon Dukes said in response to the GP contract announcement on Friday (February 7).

He added that the extra funding “will hardly feel like good news to community pharmacies”.

“Overall, we think this deal will put yet more financial stress on a sector that is in an increasingly unsustainable fiscal environment, increasing the risk that we will see further pharmacy closures happening randomly and affecting those patients who need their community pharmacists the most,” he said.

New GP contract

NHS England and the Department of Health and Social Care (DH) have committed at least £1.5bn for general practice over the next four years through the new GP contract.

This additional funding will help general practice deliver 50 million more appointments and recruit 6,000 more primary care professionals, including pharmacists and pharmacy technicians, to work in primary care networks (PCNs), the DH said in a statement published last week (February 6).

“In the light of this new investment in general practice, we trust that funds can also be found for community pharmacy when pharmacy contract discussions resume,” a National Pharmacy Association spokesperson told C+D today (February 10).

Invest in community pharmacy

Prevention is one of the government’s key priorities, Mr Dukes said, and the NHS “must start investing in this area through community pharmacies”.

“Pharmacies already see some 1.6 million people every day” and investing in public health services “that make the most of these interactions” could take the pressure off GPs and other health services, he added.

PCN roles reimbursed

As part of the new contract, GP leaders have agreed with NHS England that all PCN roles “will be reimbursed 100% of [their] actual salary” from April. The NHS had previously pledged to cover 70% of the cost of professionals employed through the Additional Roles Reimbursement Scheme – which now also includes pharmacy technicians.

“The additional reimbursement for pharmacists and pharmacy technicians shows how important they will be to helping PCNs deliver better and safer care for patients,” Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) English Board chair Professor Claire Anderson said.

The RPS “hopes the 100% reimbursement will encourage PCNs to recruit into these new roles”, she added.

However, the government needs to invest in the “education, training and recruitment of pharmacists” as “PCNs will only be able to move as quickly as the workforce grows and develops”, she said.

“Workforce drain”

The Association of Independent Multiple Pharmacies (AIMp) CEO Leyla Hannbeck welcomed the addition of pharmacy technicians to the roles that will be fully reimbursed by NHS England for their work in networks, and said the organisation supports “the wider use of technician skillsets and encourages collaboration with PCNs”.

However, the organisation is “becoming increasingly worried about the impact that the further workforce drain will have on community pharmacy”, she told C+D today (February 10).

“This is particularly a big concern for pharmacies in rural areas and deep within communities where recruitment of workforce remains difficult.

“Millions of patients walk through the doors of community pharmacies every day and without the relevant workforce, the pharmacy network and patient care will suffer. We encourage the use of these skillsets, with appropriate funding, to stay within community pharmacy.”

What do you make of the new GP contract?

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