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'We cannot subsidise NHS medicines bill': PSNC ramps up pressure on government

The Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) has pushed the government for immediate rescue packages” to help contractors withstand the financial impact of rising energy bills, workforce issues, and a broken price concessions system.

The negotiator said it had “escalated” its demands to the Department of Health and Social Care (DH) to revamp the price concessions system, which is “no longer working for contractors in the current volatile medicine supply environment”.

“We have sent a strong and clear message back to government that pharmacies cannot subsidise the NHS medicines bill,” it said in a statement this afternoon (September 20).

It comes against a background of “anger and frustration” at the government's perceived reluctance to fund the community pharmacy sector fairly, the negotiator pointed out. “PSNC will lead the sector in holding them to account for this,” it pledged.

A DH spokesperson told C+D that the department continues to “work with PSNC to ensure that pharmacy contractors are paid fairly” when medicine prices increase.

But they added that the UK “has some of the cheapest generic medicines in Europe, and suppliers are given freedom of pricing to ensure we maintain continuity of supply despite increasing prices within the global market”.

While PSNC is still fighting for an uplift to England's community pharmacy contract – currently in year four of a five-year deal – it stressed the “need to look beyond the pharmacy funding envelope”, pushing the government for “immediate rescue packages” to help ease the impact of rising energy bills and capacity issues.

The negotiator said it has “reconsidered” the deal it provisionally reached on year four of the contract with the DH and NHS England and NHS Improvement over the summer “in light of the rapidly worsening economic outlook for community pharmacies”.


Pressures “decimating” pharmacy businesses


This deal is awaiting final government sign off following a slew of ministerial resignations during the summer months, PSNC explained.

PSNC chief executive Janet Morrison pointed out that while community pharmacy teams “stepped up” during the COVID-19 pandemic, they are now “struggling to keep afloat while [the government] allows drug tariff and concession price issues, spiralling costs, and other pressures to decimate your businesses”.

“This is not acceptable to us, it is not acceptable to NHS patients, and it won’t be acceptable to the public: PSNC is clear that policy-makers must be held to account for it,” she hit back.

The negotiator is now fighting “very hard” for increased funding, help with energy prices and for the price concessions system to be overhauled.


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