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Payment scheme for pharmacy urgent supply service revealed

NHS England has confirmed how much community pharmacies will get paid for providing emergency medication, and in which areas its pilot service will be rolled out first.

Under the 'Pharmacy Urgent Care' pilot programme announced by the Department of Health last month, patients who call NHS 111 for urgent repeat medication will be directed straight to a community pharmacy, instead of an out-of-hours GP surgery.

Those community pharmacies taking part in the programme will be paid a total of £12.50 for any request for urgent medicine received from NHS 111, regardless of whether or not a supply is made, the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) confirmed yesterday (November 29).

This consists of a £10 consultation fee and a £2.50 administration fee “to reflect the additional work and documentation required”, PSNC said.

A supply fee of £1.50 will be paid for the first item provided, and an additional 50p for each additional item.

PSNC said “a phased introduction” of the scheme will take place from December 2016 to March 2017, with the pilot ending in March 2018.

The four phases of the roll-out are:

Phase 1 – December 2016 – Brighton and Hove clincial commissioning group (CCG); Guildford and Waverley CCG; Blackpool CCG; Fylde and Wyre CCG; Nottingham City CCG; Cambridgeshire and Peterborough CCG

Phase 2 – January 2017 – East of England; North East; North West

Phase 3 – February 2017 – South East Coast; West Midlands; East Midlands; South West

Phase 4 – March 2017 – London; Yorkshire and Humber; South Central; Isle of Wight

All contractors in England will be able to sign up to provide the service from tomorrow (December 1) via the NHS Business Services Authority website.

However, this sign-up process is only to “register contractors’ intention”, PSNC said. “Most” contractors will not be able to start providing the service immediately, it added.

Details not agreed with PSNC

When the pilot scheme was first announced, the National Pharmacy Association branded it a "smoke screen… clearly timed to draw attention away” from the cuts to pharmacy funding.

PSNC said yesterday that while it supports the commissioning of an emergency supply service “in principle”, the final details of the programme “have not been agreed by PSNC”.

“PSNC is pleased to see recognition of how community pharmacies can help patients and the NHS, but we are disappointed that the scheme has only been commissioned as a pilot,” it said.

“We are also disappointed that the service will not cover patients who have been referred by other health professionals or come to pharmacies in the first instance themselves.”

More expensive than planned?

In its initial assessment of the programme’s funding, PSNC said it would be more expensive to run the service than NHS England has suggested.

The volume of referrals from NHS 111 to contractors “is likely to be relatively low...based on information provided by NHS England", it added.

“The maximum number of potential referrals is in the region of 200,000 per annum. Based on the experience of similar locally commissioned services, it is unlikely that it will be possible to transfer all of these patient requests to community pharmacy, at least to begin with,” the negotiator said.

The lack of funding to provide IT support for the service is “regrettable”, PSNC said, and will incur additional “bureaucracy” and costs for contractors in the long-run.

The negotiator suggested the Pharmacy Integration Fund – a £300 million fund designed to assimilate pharmacy into the NHS and other care settings, which is being used to fund this pilot service – should also be used to provide the IT infrastructure needed for the scheme.

Get an insider's view on the funding cut negotiations below:

Will you sign up to provide the urgent supply service?

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