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PSNC kicks off ‘proper discussions’ on Pharmacy First with DH

The Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) is “starting to have proper discussions” with the government about what a Pharmacy First service “might look like”, CEO Janet Morrison has revealed.

In a video update published last week (January 11), Ms Morrison described a December meeting between PNSC and pharmacy minister Neil O’Brien in which the negotiator said Mr O’Brien faced “a really fundamental decision” regarding community pharmacy and urged him to properly fund the sector.

Although Mr O’Brien seemed “committed to continuing that conversation”, he “didn't fail to mention [that] the economy is in a very dire straits and there is a massive squeeze on public spending”, Ms Morrison said.

“He was clear that the problem or the challenge would be to get more money for the health service and for pharmacy just in that climate,” she explained.

Read more: Health minister moots ‘more funding’ for pharmacy

Long ambulance waits and “brim-full” A&E departments – alongside nurses, ambulance workers and doctors striking for better pay – is placing “really serious demands for funding for the NHS,” Ms Morrison continued.

“And we recognise that our demands for community pharmacy are alongside those many other ones that ministers are weighing up.”

However, Ms Morrison said there were still “opportunities for [pharmacy] to be seen as a solution”.

Pharmacy First seems our best bet in terms of being able to get additional resources for the sector,” she stated.

“We really feel like we are starting to have proper discussions with the department about what that might look like,” Ms Morrison said.


Scheme will display sector as “solution”


PNSC revealed in September that negotiations with the Department of Health and Social Care (DH) about the final two years of the pharmacy contract had failed to result in a Pharmacy First service being commissioned at the time.

But health secretary Steve Barclay last week (January 9) said he would like to see pharmacies take on “additional services”, which Association of Multiple Independent pharmacies CEO Leyla Hannbeck said alluded “to the government’s desire to progress a Pharmacy First scheme for England”.

Read more: 2022: The year of the missed Pharmacy First opportunity, PSNC says

Ms Morrison argued that the implementation of such a scheme would give community pharmacy “the potential to be seen as a really cost-effective solution to one of the major challenges that is being faced by the NHS, which is about GP access”.

“We know that community pharmacy can deliver at pace with the right resources, the right investment, the right capacity,” she continued.

Ms Morrison promised that PNSC would “continue to work with [the DH and NHS England] to argue strongly on [pharmacy’s] behalf with urgency, and with deep passion”.

“These are difficult times [and] we're fully committed to trying to help you and to change the dial on how community pharmacy is treated within primary care,” Ms Morrison stated.


Contractor poll


Meanwhile, PNSC also revealed the results of a poll of contractors in December about how current pressures are affecting the services they can currently provide.

The poll found that:

  • 84% of the participants said they were losing money
  • 40% of contractors did not think their businesses would survive for more than a year
  • 79% said they were considering stopping free services
  • 83% said they have stopped or were considering only providing some advanced services currently in the contract

Ms Morrison said PSNC was relaying these “important messages” to politicians and NHSE.

She told C+D in December that PSNC submitted “a very detailed business case” for a Pharmacy First service during negotiations last year, which was not taken up by the DH.

But Mr Barclay stated last month that a ‘Pharmacy First’ model would allow pharmacists “to make better use” of their skills and drastically improve patients' access to general practice.

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