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CCA: Extra £656m per year for pharmacy could unlock £1.9bn benefit for the NHS

The Company Chemists’ Association (CCA) has estimated that investing an extra £656 million into England’s community pharmacy sector could trigger annual financial benefits of £1.9 billion to the NHS.

In its response to HM Treasury’s Autumn Budget Review, published last week (October 1), the CCA wrote that “investing in community pharmacy presents an opportunity to increase NHS capacity, improve population health and patient outcomes, and directly target health inequalities”.

In the document, the CCA detailed how the extra funding could be broken down by clinical activity.

 

Extra £130m a year for hypertension service

 

The CCA estimates that injecting just an additional £130m a year into the newly launched hypertension case-finding service could “enable a rapid deployment of the screening activity needed to find the 5.5 million people with undiagnosed hypertension”.

“Further increasing the funding could allow even greater capacity. This would also need support to manage these individuals as current primary care capacity is unlike to be able to manage these newly identified patients,” the CCA added.

It calculated that the expanded service could save the NHS around £739m in costs – but savings could be higher “with a successful service further increasing the proportion of diagnosed people”, it wrote.

 

Increase volume of DMS and expand CPCS

 

The CCA also argued that the volume of the Discharge Medicines Service (DMS) consultations should be increased “to release 2 million bed days every year”, which it said could be done if an additional £35m is allocated to the service.

“There are numerous figures quantifying the cost of excess bed days, but one estimate is approximately £360 a day. Releasing the possible 2m bed days could save £720m annually, a fivefold return on investment,” the CCA added.

It also argued that, while estimates suggest there is currently funding for up to 1.5m Community Pharmacist Consultation Service (CPCS) referrals per year to community pharmacy from other parts of the NHS, “this could be increased to as many as 10m per year if there was adequate additional funding”.

If an extra £145m is pumped into the service, the CCA estimates, the sector would be able to complete an extra 8.5m consultations per year. This could save the NHS “a minimum of £255m worth of NHS appointments, mainly from general practice”, it added.

The CCA also estimated that more than 50,000 emergency contraception appointments could be transferred to community pharmacy from other parts of the NHS, while a nationally commissioned contraception service could see the sector deliver as many as 500,000 consultations per year.

“Meeting the needs of this population group would likely cost approximately £15m,” the CCA wrote.

 

Efficiencies despite funding cuts

 

The English community pharmacy sector saw its funding cut in 2016 and its budget has been frozen since 2019.

However, during this time, the sector has “implemented efficiencies” and “seen the introduction of new requirements through the Pharmacy Quality Scheme”, for instance, the CCA wrote.

“In this time, there have also been additional costs through changes to minimum wages, national insurance contributions and business rates, to name a few,” the CCA added.

To offset these pressures, the CCA estimates that an extra £240m of additional capital should be shared with the sector.

“This will enable pharmacies to invest in their businesses and transition to reflect the new needs of the NHS.

“The frozen funding and the increasing pressure are showing in the pharmacy network. Without additional investment, community pharmacy businesses cannot make the necessary investments to recognise the value to the NHS,” the CCA concluded.

Earlier this year (August 23), the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee said the Treasury had rejected its request for an increase in pharmacy funding.

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