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APPG chair: Commissioning is ‘at fault’ for pharmacy’s funding issues

Ministers are appreciative of everything community pharmacy has done, but it is the commissioning system that is “at fault” for the sector's lack of funding, all-party pharmacy group (APPG) chair Jackie Doyle-Price has said.

Speaking at an APPG event on the recruitment, retention and professional development of the pharmacy workforce last week (February 22), Ms Doyle-Price told delegates that MPs are not “the issue” when it comes to funding the sector, adding that “it is the commissioning system who is at fault”.  

“It is NHS England and NHS Improvement (NHSE&I), it is the Department of Health and Social Care (DH) and it is local clinical commissioning groups and that’s really what we have to fix,” she added.

The APPG is “very aware that the funding mechanisms aren’t actually helping” and it has “made the call about funding on a regular basis to [HM] Treasury ministers very loudly”, Ms Doyle said.

However, “we need to be structuring the debate around the outcomes” and understand what needs to be changed to achieve those outcomes, she added.

“We need to have specific asks and we need to have specific outputs that will be delivered or not as a consequence,” Ms Doyle-Price argued.

“More funding isn't enough as a message, we've landed that point. If we're now going to get that funding, we've got to get the nuts and bolts of how [the system] needs to be changed.”

 

“GPs still are the gatekeepers of the vast majority of services”

 

Ms Doyle-Price’s comments followed queries by Anil Sharma, independent contractor and representative for the east of England region at the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee, who wondered whether the Treasury and MPs’ perception of the sector meant it is not “getting the rewards [it] deserves”.

“I feel we’re not being treated the same as GPs, for example. They’re given funding to deliver services, they’re given extra funding to do things. I don’t want to say that the whole NHS is GP centric, but we’re not [being] given that funding.”

Meanwhile, Paul Mason, superintendent pharmacist at Lo's Pharmacy Group – who attended the event on behalf of the Association of Independent Multiple pharmacies (AIMp) – told delegates that “GPs still are the gatekeepers to the vast majority of services” in primary care.

While the Community Pharmacist Consultation Service (CPCS), for example, is a “valuable service”, it is “held up by one particular sector of primary care”, he said.



Read more: NHSE&I warns GPs against 'informal' CPCS referrals to pharmacies

 

“We do need to be able to create an environment where we are one profession” to ensure “we all work together to a common goal”, Mr Mason concluded.

 

DH: “We have committed more than £2.5bn a year”

 

When asked by C+D to respond to comments made at the APPG event on the pharmacy workforce, a DH spokesperson said community pharmacies “have gone above and beyond in response to COVID-19 to serve their communities”.

The government has committed “more than £2.5 billion a year to support community pharmacies”, to “ensure they can continue to provide high-quality care to patients”, they added.  

“While the number of pharmacists on the register increases every year, we continue to monitor the impact of the recruitment of pharmacists into primary care networks and are working closely with the sector.”

C+D has also approached NHSE&I for comment.

Last year, the APPG launched an inquiry into the future of the pharmacy sector in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. The group aims to develop a manifesto to unlock the potential of pharmacy and further improve patient outcomes.

 

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