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Pharmacy bodies plea to protect ‘exhausted and starved-of-funding’ sector

Pharmacy bodies have submitted a letter to the Health and Social Care Select Committee, urging it to investigate the sector’s “untenable funding” and “growing workforce challenges”.

In the letter, which was published yesterday (July 5), the pharmacy bodies stressed their “continued concerns regarding the workforce challenges, coupled with eight years of a real-term decrease in funding” across community pharmacy in England.


The bodies highlight that the current five-year pharmacy funding contract – agreed in 2019 – has not been adjusted despite rising inflation, Brexit and the COVID-19 pandemic.


Read more: Is a five-year contract still working for community pharmacy?


Referencing an Ernst & Young (EY) report, commissioned by the National Pharmacy Association (NPA) in 2020, the bodies stress that 72% of pharmacies across England “could be forced to shut their doors by 2024 with the average pharmacy expected to make an annual loss of £43,000” in this period.


Meanwhile, data compiled by the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) and released during a parliamentary drop-in event shows that 639 pharmacies have closed across the country since 2016, “almost one for each constituency”.



Exacerbating “staff shortages”


“The impact of these untenable funding cuts has been exacerbated by growing workforce challenges. Pharmacy businesses, of all sizes, are finding it harder and harder to recruit pharmacists,” the bodies stated in the letter.


“Indeed, PSNC’s pharmacy pressures survey found that 91% of pharmacies are experiencing staff shortages,” they added.


Read more: More than 840 working days lost to pharmacy staff shortages in a month


“This is having a knock-on effect on the wellbeing of staff who have worked so hard during the pandemic to serve their local communities. Moreover, pharmacy staff continue to be subject to worrying levels of abuse from disgruntled members of the public.”


Read more: Managing abusive patients – legal and regulatory considerations for pharmacists


Community pharmacy is willing and able to play an important part in the future of the NHS, but “simply cannot” take on any more without adequate funding and “action” to mitigate the effects of the workforce challenges, the bodies stressed.


“We encourage the Health and Social Care Committee to hold the government to account over the inconsistency of asking a sector to do more without investment or a workforce strategy to match,” they concluded.


Read more: Shortfall of 3,000 community pharmacists in England over 5 years, CCA claims


The bodies urged the chair of the committee, Jeremy Hunt, to “fully investigate the workforce recruitment and retention challenges within the community pharmacy sector” as part of the committee’s ongoing inquiry into Workforce: recruitment, training and retention in health and social care.


“Exhausted” sector


Leyla Hannbeck, CEO of the Association of Independent Multiple pharmacies (AIMp), said pharmacy teams “are willing and ready to step up and further be a solution to the current challenges within the NHS”.


“But our sector is exhausted and starved of funding since many years. It needs prompt support and investment. The positive words need to turn into action,” Dr Hannbeck stressed.


Read more: Suspend CPCS, overhaul commissioning – what sector bodies want from Sajid Javid’s pharmacy reforms


Malcolm Harrison, CEO of the Company Chemists’ Association (CCA) added that pharmacies are “hamstrung by the current arrangements”.


“The sector needs a funding settlement that truly reflects the value it provides to patients, the public and the NHS.”


The letter was also signed by representatives from the NPA and PSNC. It can be read in full here.


MPs show their support during drop-in event in parliament


During a drop-in parliamentary event on the future of pharmacy yesterday afternoon, representatives from AIMp, CCA, NPA, PSNC and the Royal Pharmaceutical Society invited MPs to sign a letter to Prime Minister Boris Johnson in support for community pharmacies.


The bodies wrote: “Pharmacies have absorbed year after year of real-terms funding cuts, outperforming almost all other parts of the NHS in terms of efficiencies being made. But despite their continued, impressive performance, funding, workforce and commissioning pressures are now pushing our local pharmacies to the brink.


“We urge you to work with your ministers, the community pharmacy sector, and frontline pharmacists across England, to keep our pharmacists safe, end the threat of pharmacy closures through a sustainable and fair approach to funding, and maximise the value of the community pharmacy network.”


A total of 24 MPs signed the letter, which was hand-delivered to No 10 after the event.



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