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NHS England: Pharmacy income protected during COVID-19 pandemic

NHS England has pledged to protect pharmacies’ income as the UK prepares for the “peak” of the COVID-19 outbreak.

English community pharmacies’ income will be protected if dealing with the virus means that “routine contracted work has to be substituted”, NHS England CEO Simon Stevens and NHS chief operating officer Amanda Pritchard said in a letter to healthcare professionals yesterday (March 17).

Specific guidance on this will be issued in due course, along with advice on how to claim for additional funding to cover the costs of responding to the outbreak.

Clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) will also be reimbursed for payments to pharmacy contractors who need to close for coronavirus-relates issues, according to the letter.

“Financial constraints must not and will not stand in the way of taking immediate and necessary action – whether in terms of staffing, facilities adaptation…or any other relevant category,” the letter said.

Recording costs

Healthcare providers and commissioners are advised to “carefully record the costs incurred in responding to the outbreak and will be required to report actual costs incurred on a monthly basis”.

It is “crucial” that accurate financial records are kept during this time, the letter stressed.

“To support reimbursement and track expenditure we will in due course be asking all relevant organisations to provide best estimates of expected costs from now until the expected end of the peak outbreak. We will provide further guidance with relevant assumptions in order to support you in making these estimates,” it said.

Reimbursement for CCGs

NHS England is taking action now because it predicts that “the NHS will still come under intense pressure…at the peak of the outbreak”, the letter said, basing this assumption on how other countries tackling the virus have fared.

CCGs will be reimbursed, “where required”, for services such as an “NHS urgent medicines supply service for patients whose general practice is closed”.

Costs will also be covered for a “medicines delivery service” to support patients who have contracted the virus and “vulnerable patients” who are self-isolating in their homes.

The news comes after the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee CEO Simon Dukes said earlier this week (March 16) that some pharmacies closing due to staff sickness during the COVID-19 outbreak “may not open again” as they lack the funds to re-open.

Flexible approach

Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) English Pharmacy Board chair Claire Anderson welcomed NHS England's “flexible approach”, noting that it would “come as a relief to many”.

“It’s vital that income is protected when contract work has to re-focus on COVID-19 to care for patients. This kind of financial lifeline is important to preserve the future functioning of the community pharmacy network,” she said.

“We look forward to seeing further detail on this as how and when it’s implemented will be vital.”

What do you make of NHS England's announcement?

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