Former PSNC chief: 'Treasury still sees pharmacy as a place to make funding cuts'
Community pharmacy leaders must “influence” Treasury officials if they do not want further cuts to sector funding, the former PSNC CEO Simon Dukes has advised.
As a sector, community pharmacy needs to “continue to do everything in your power” to win over the “hearts and minds of the Treasury and its officials”, Mr Dukes said during a session at the Pharmacy Show in Birmingham yesterday (October 17).
The former Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) CEO - who stepped down from the role last month - argued that it is: “Politically far easier for the Treasury to cut or at least constrain the funding from community pharmacy contractors, big as well as small businesses, than chop money from hospitals, GPs and other parts of primary care.”
Pharmacy bodies should now work together to agree on a joint Whitehall strategy and “really focus on influencing Treasury officials”, he told Pharmacy Show delegates.
“If after the year we've just had,” he added, “they still think that community pharmacy is a place where cuts can be made, we have still got a huge amount of work to do”.
“What pharmacy could do with a quarter of a billion pounds”
In August, Mr Dukes said in a blog post that the PSNC's requests for additional funding for pharmacy primary care network (PCN) leads were "dismissed" in its most recent round of negotiations with the government. He argued that GPs were “feted with additional funding from the NHS”.
He repeated this frustration during yesterday’s session, telling delegates, that given the “exemplary” work of the sector over the last year, it was “all the more galling that our bid for a funding uplift to the contractual framework – timed to coincide with cross government discussions, ahead of the budget and the spending review process – was flatly refused and rejected by the Treasury”.
He added: “I know many of you will have watched like me with bewilderment this week, when the government revealed its GP winter access scheme, thinking, what pharmacy could do with a quarter of a billion pounds.”
Sector does still have “big support”
He did, however, praise the health secretary Sajid Javid and new pharmacy minister Maria Caulfield for their “big support” of the community pharmacy sector.
There are “plenty of advocates and champions for us in other parts of Whitehall,” he said, “but ultimately, despite all the work that we do, they do not have the influence over some of those Treasury officials. We need to get that”.
Mr Dukes told delegates: “This week's news also suggests that there's money to be had in the NHS for the right things.”
“This time last year, you faced a backlog of patients from the NHS, patients and healthcare professionals were still unvaccinated and afraid, and of course, the second wave loomed,” he added.
“But you worked through it, doing everything that was needed. And for that the NHS and the government owe you a great debt.”