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Pharmacies in Northern Ireland paid £300 to cover SSP costs

Community pharmacies in Northern Ireland will be given a one-off £300 payment to cover costs related to the introduction of serious shortage protocols (SSPs) in the country.

Contractors will be reimbursed for “costs associated with the development of processes, training within the pharmacy and the implementation of any SSPs that would be delivered in the remainder of the 19/20 financial year”, the Health and Social Care Board (HSCB) said in a letter to community pharmacies last month (January 30).

All contractors will receive a one-off payment at the end of February, including a flat fee of £300 and a fee based on the pharmacy’s dispensing volumes over the past 12 months:

  • Tier 1 (0 - 48,000 items): £128.12
  • Tier 2 (48,000 - 70,000 items): £256.24
  • Tier 3 (70,000 - 100,000 items): £384.36
  • Tier 4 (100,000 + items): £512.48

No SSPs have been issued in Northern Ireland to date but if one is issued before March 31, pharmacies will be expected to implement it without additional funding, an HSCB spokesperson told C+D last week (February 7).

The HSCB will negotiate the 2020-21 funding model for the SSP with the negotiator Community Pharmacy Northern Ireland “in the coming months”, the spokesperson added.

SSPs across the UK

The Human Medicines (Amendment) Regulations 2019 order – which came into force in February 2019 and was added to community pharmacy’s terms of service in July – allows pharmacists to dispense an alternative strength or form of medicine when the government issues an SSP.

In England, the government enforced three SSPs allowing pharmacists to supply alternative strengths or forms of fluoxetine in October last year. These all expired in December.

Another SSP, for haloperidol, was granted for England and Wales in December last year, remaining active until March 23. However, it can be revoked or amended at any point before then, according to the NHS Business Services Authority.

As part of the five-year funding settlement for England, NHS England last year set aside £10 million as a contingency for pharmacies to dispense medicines under an SSP. It pledged to pay contractors the usual single activity fee of £1.27, as well as an additional SSP fee of £5.35 per item.

No SSPs have been enforced in Scotland to date, and there are “no plans to introduce a payment for pharmacy contractors in Scotland”, a Scottish government spokesperson told C+D last week (February 6).

They added that Community Pharmacy Scotland has not requested additional funding to be made available to pharmacies for actioning an SSP.

A Welsh government spokesperson told C+D yesterday (February 11) that “a fee structure for SSPs” has been agreed with Community Pharmacy Wales “to reflect any additional workload that might be associated with their implementation”.

What do you make of the SSP payment for contractors in Northern Ireland?

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