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PSNC unveils plans for new national pharmacy contraception service

A new national contraception service and “modest expansions” to existing services will be launched within the final two years of the five-year community pharmacy contract, PSNC has announced.

A selected number of pharmacies started piloting an NHS Community Pharmacy Contraception Management service last September, which was extended in October to be trialled for at least two years.

Following the pilot, the new pharmacy contraception service (PCS) will be rolled out gradually from January next year – with pharmacists initially using a patient group direction (PGD) to provide ongoing management of routine oral contraception that was initiated in general practice or a sexual health clinic.

Participating pharmacies will receive £18 per consultation and a set-up fee of £900, paid in instalments – up from the £685 offered to pilot sites.

The new advanced service is “very positive” for the “development of community pharmacy services”, the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) said today (September 22), as it unveiled the arrangements for years 4 and 5 of the funding deal.

Read more: Locations of 44 pharmacies piloting NHS contraception service in England

The deal marks the culmination of months of “tense” negotiations between PSNC, the Department of Health and Social Care (DH) and NHS England and NHS Improvement (NHSE&I), PSNC said.

While negotiations began in February, the progress of the deal was slowed by “both the need to get cross-governmental sign-off for the £100m margin write-off and then by the ministerial resignations and Conservative Party leadership contest”, the negotiator acknowledged.

 

Service extension timeline

Under the funding deal, it was agreed there will be a phased rollout of service extensions and the PCS – with key rollout and launch dates as follows:

• January 11, 2023: Launch of the initial first tier of the new PCS

• March 2023: Expansion of the CPCS to include referrals from urgent and emergency care settings

• April 19, 2023: Expansion of the NMS to include antidepressants

• October 4, 2023: Launch of the second tier of the PCS which, subject to evaluation, will see pharmacists using a PGD to initiate patients on oral contraception

These dates are spread out across years 4 and 5 of the funding deal as the sector is already overwhelmed and could not cope with multiple changes to services commencing at the same time, PSNC argued.

Source: PSNC

PCS “clearly in line with the sector’s ambitions”

 

Following the announcement, Clare Kerr, a member of PSNC’s negotiating team and vice-chair of PSNC’s service development subcommittee, said the committee “felt it right to agree to the new PCS being introduced”.

It is “very clearly in line with the sector’s ambitions for the future”, she added.

“The service, when pharmacies have capacity to offer it, will be a positive step forward, allowing pharmacies to give people the advice and contraception they need in a more convenient setting, while also freeing up further GP capacity,” she said.

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

It is however “very disappointing” that PSNC was unable to agree “a fully funded pharmacy walk-in service”, she noted.

The negotiator continues to make the government and NHS aware that “they must not drive even more patients to pharmacies for self-care consultations without this being properly resourced”, Ms Kerr added.

“As demand for advice continues to rise, pharmacies must have the support they need to offer it.”

 

Extensions to CPCS and NMS

 

PSNC has “insisted” that the planned extensions to the Community Pharmacist Consultation Service (CPCS) and to the new medicine service (NMS) remain “modest" over the last two years of the deal.

Read more: £100m in excess margin written off as DH stands firm on flat funding deal

The DH and NHSE&I have also agreed that no more new services will be introduced or expanded within the current community pharmacy funding envelope, PSNC confirmed.

 

Government’s “Plan for Patients”

 

It comes as new health secretary Thérèse Coffey presented a new “Plan for Patients” to the House of Commons today (September 22).

The plan makes references to some elements of the pharmacy contract, such as the ambition for pharmacists to manage and supply “more medicines such as contraception without a GP prescription” to “help ease pressures on GPs and free up time for appointments”.

Government officials estimate this would make a further two million GP appointments available every year.

The DH also plans to “go further” and grant pharmacists more prescribing powers, while “making more simple diagnostic tests available in community pharmacy”.

 

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