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PSNC rejects ‘totally inadequate’ proposals to relieve sector pressures

The pharmacy negotiator has rejected government proposals to relieve pressure on pharmacists because they were "totally inadequate", it has revealed.

The Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) held a full committee meeting earlier this month to “consider the urgent funding and capacity crisis” in the sector, it said on Friday (February 17).

It also considered Department of Health and Social Care (DH) and NHS England (NHSE) proposals on “price concessions reform and relief measures to ease pressure on pharmacies”, it added.

Read more: 'Unprecedented closures': Pharmacy leaders press Sunak for cash injection

However, the negotiator revealed that it “rejected the proposals” in both areas “as being insufficient to meet the sector’s needs” and going “nowhere near far enough to solving our current struggles”.

The DH told C+D it is "continuing discussions" with PSNC.


Reduced opening hours?


A PSNC briefing document also published on Friday described the rejected proposals as “totally inadequate”.

And it revealed that the series of measures that the negotiator has been “actively discussing” with the DH and NHSE included “a relaxation of opening hours requirements”.

PSNC has written to both bodies “restating the critical situation and urging them to take more decisive action to help and protect contractors”, it added.


“Sticking plasters”


PSNC did not reveal any further details of the content of the proposals put forward by the government or NHSE.

However, a separate briefing document published by the negotiator on the same day set out that “some of the options on the table” from the DH around price concessions “suggest some incremental ‘sticking plaster’ relief".

These are “likely to be taken forward”, it said, although “the committee felt that considering the volatility of the drugs market and the fact that contractors are taking all the risks without being reimbursed sufficiently, the only reasonable course of action is long-term structural reform and an uplift in the Tariff”.

Read more: APPG chair: ‘Clear’ health sec does not understand pharmacy

And regarding “regulatory easements”, PNSC said that it was “very disappointed” by the “piecemeal options on the table from NHSE”.

“[The committee] felt these made it clear that NHSE and the [DH] have no intention of relieving the pressure on all contractors in any meaningful way,” it added.

“This is all the more dismaying given that we put more substantial proposals forward many months ago and that the help we are asking for would cost nothing,” it said.


Urgent meeting


PSNC will hold an “urgent meeting” this month to “consider other options and steps”, it said.

This comes as the DH and NHSE “are thus far refusing to offer emergency funding for the sector”, despite multiple “warnings” that without “urgent action”, the sector will “see a significant increase in temporary and permanent pharmacy closures”, it added.

Read more: ‘Recovery infeasible’: NHSE lost £16m in COVID loans due to pharmacy closures

And PSNC said that it has “made clear” that any ideas about the “potential role of community pharmacy” such as a Pharmacy First approach and independent prescribing are “all a pipedream” without “new money”.

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

“We need an urgent injection of funds into the sector, otherwise we will continue to see a degradation of services and eventual collapse of the network,” it added.

“The committee is clear that there is no further place for warm words while pharmacy collapses.”


"Devastating position”


PSNC chief executive Janet Morrison said that pharmacy owners are in a “devastating position”.

“Having stepped up so bravely to support patients and the public during the COVID-19 pandemic, you are now having to take desperate measures just to keep the doors open; gone are any hopes of turning a profit,” she added.


PSNC “will not stop fighting tirelessly on your behalf”, she pledged.


A DH spokesperson said: “Community pharmacies play a vital role in our healthcare system and we are backing them with £2.6 billion a year. On top of this, we have announced a further £100 million investment in the sector to help support services.


Read more: NHSE economic review chance to ‘prove’ unsustainability of pharmacies

“The department is continuing discussions with PSNC on how best to fulfil our common ambitions of providing the best possible service for patients and staff.”
They added that it would be inappropriate to comment further at this time while a number of proposals put forward by the DH and PSNC are still being considered.
C+D also approached NHSE for comment.
The negotiator and other bodies wrote a joint letter to the Prime Minister in January urging him to invest in the sector or face “unprecedented closures”.
It came after the same group penned a letter to health secretary Steve Barclay in December, warning that pharmacies are making losses and “struggling to survive”.

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