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DH underpaid pharmacies cuts protection funding, PSNC claims

The Department of Health (DH) has identified “errors" in how it was deciding how much protection from the funding cuts pharmacies should receive, the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) has claimed.

The Pharmacy Access Scheme (PhAS) was introduced in December 2016 and is designed to protect pharmacies in England which are situated a mile or more from another pharmacy by road from the “full effect” of the cuts – as long as they are not in the top 25% best-performing businesses according to dispensing volume.

PSNC said yesterday (May 24) that the DH has written this week to all pharmacies receiving payments under the scheme, after it identified “some” contractors had been underpaid – and others overpaid – in the three months before March.

The DH was not available to comment on these claims.

The DH “had not calculated PhAS payments in accordance with the drug tariff, and this has led to inaccurate payments being made to contractors”, PSNC said in a statement on its website.

In "certain cases" the DH had "double counted" the quality payments a pharmacy should receive, the negotiator said, and had used an "estimate of 2015-16 remuneration rather than the actual remuneration paid to each pharmacy".

Adjusted payments

According to PSNC – which alerted contractors to “issues” with the scheme’s payments at the end of March – the DH has now reviewed “all PhAS payment calculations” and is “correcting” its methodology to take into account drug tariff provision.

“The DH has said it will calculate an adjustment payment for any contractor who has been underpaid, to make up the shortfall; and it will not seek to recover any overpayments made,” PSNC added.

The negotiator is advising contractors to wait for their letter from the DH, setting out the details of the miscalculations.

More than 300 “near miss” applications

Last October, the DH introduced a “near miss” process to review pharmacies that did not initially qualify for the PhAS, but are affected by factors that could limit patient access.

NHS England began accepting applications from contractors in November and said it would aim to complete a review within six weeks.

However, in March, the commissioner confirmed to C+D it had rejected each of the 78 applications from pharmacies it had reviewed so far. The following month, NHS England said an announcement about whether pharmacies have qualified for the funding would be "impossible" until after the general election on June 8.

At the time, NHS England told C+D it had received "a total of 370 applications" and the outcomes of the reviews would be announced in June.

“All applications that are approved will be added to the PhAS list and payments will be backdated where appropriate,” they added.

Have you applied for the Pharmacy Access Scheme?

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