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PSNC ‘deeply frustrated’ as contract review ends with no ‘immediate’ funding boost

The Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) is “deeply frustrated” by the government’s continued refusal to agree to “a much-needed broader funding uplift” for the community pharmacy network in England, it has said.

The negotiator is “disappointed” that the first annual review of the five-year community pharmacy contract in England “did not lead to immediate and tangible outcomes and improvements for contractors”, PSNC vice-chair and contractor Bharat Patel said last week (January 28).

PSNC director of funding Mike Dent acknowledged that the review would “fall short” of contractors' hopes for more funding, with the government “remaining clear throughout that no funding uplift is available” for the remaining two years of the rolling £2.592 billion contract.

Nevertheless, the committee decided that it would “explore ways to bid again for additional funding” in 2022 at its planning meeting at the end last year, he stressed.

“We are working on that now, including gathering further evidence of contractors’ costs and the pressures on the sector – the pharmacy pressures survey and the advice audit taking place [this] week will provide crucial evidence to support this, and we hope as many contractors who can will take part in these important exercises,” he said.

PSNC is determined “to continue to look for better ways forward for the sector throughout 2022 and beyond”, Mr Patel said.

 

Next steps after annual review

 

The annual review – which involved “very robust” talks between PSNC and the government in the autumn – was designed to give the negotiator the chance to look at costs and capacity in community pharmacy, while the government could review the value the sector is providing. 

The review was separate to and occurred too late to inform the negotiator’s rejected bid for more funding last year.

While “significant differences in opinion” were aired during the discussions, PSNC stressed that there were also “areas of alignment”. 

“PSNC’s negotiating team fought hard to turn the review from simply being a progress report into something useful for the sector. We were pleased to get recognition of some of the challenges that pharmacies are facing,” said Mr Patel.

The review will pave the way for the next round of negotiations, with a commitment from all parties to address capacity issues in community pharmacy and fee-setting for services in these discussions, according to PSNC.

The government is “actively pursuing” legislation changes to VAT with the Treasury and HMRC “to enable better use of skill mix” in community pharmacy, while PSNC said it is “considering” making the case for a walk-in minor ailments service in the next round of negotiations.

PSNC is “very concerned about the perilous state that many pharmacies are now in” and is “determined” to find a way forward for the sector in 2022, Mr Dent said.

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