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Pharmacy First service ‘most likely’ route to new funding, PSNC boss predicts

The "most likely" source of any new funding for community pharmacies in England will be a Pharmacy First minor ailments service, PSNC’s chief executive has predicted.

Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) chief executive Janet Morrison said on Sunday (March 5) that while an “urgent funding uplift on the core basis of our contract is very unlikely”, she believes a funded Pharmacy First service could be on the cards.

While she “does not know with any certainty…what will come across the line” as different parts of primary care vie for more funding, “I personally believe that the most likely thing we will get funded for is Pharmacy First”, she told delegates at the Sigma conference 2023.

Read more: DH hints at Pharmacy First timeline as it heralds bigger role for sector

Speaking via a video link open to all contractors in England, Ms Morrison said that the service is “the most realistic, viable solution” for community pharmacies “because it’s the closest we can get to core funding, funding for staff, and to cover what we’re already doing”.

The idea is also the “flavour of the month” among ministers, she suggested, with many having mentioned the service in recent months despite it not yet being commissioned.

However, pharmacists would have to be appropriately reimbursed for the service, Ms Morrison stressed. “We’ve been fundamentally clear to the [DH], you cannot flirt with this idea, it has to be fully funded,” she said.

Read more: Steve Barclay: Pharmacy First an ‘opportunity’ to solve GP appointment crisis

The government has not formally announced its intention to introduce the service, although PSNC revealed in January that it had started having “proper conversations” with the Department of Health and Social Care (DH) about what Pharmacy First “might look like”.

A DH spokesperson told C+D today (March 7) that it will be “increasing the support pharmacists can provide” over the next 18 months.

It “backs” the sector with £2.6 billion in funding every year, it said, and pointed to £100m in excess margin it agreed to waive as part of its most recent negotiations with PSNC.

 

Primary care recovery plan

 

Ms Morrison told delegates she believes the Pharmacy First Scheme has been proposed as part of the primary care recovery plan – an upcoming document on NHS recovery set to detail government plans for pharmacies to take on “additional services”.

Read more: Primary care recovery plan: Barclay wants pharmacists to do 'even more'

C+D understands that the primary care recovery plan is still being finalised.

A Pharmacy First scheme – whereby patients would be encouraged to visit their pharmacy for help with minor ailments – has been touted by the government since late 2021.

And in November, health secretary Steve Barclay revealed the government was looking at how to “progress” the Pharmacy First service.

A year earlier, then-health secretary Sajid Javid revealed that the government wanted to introduce a "Pharmacy First" model encouraging patients with minor illnesses to visit their pharmacy instead of their GP.

"I want community pharmacies to be at the very heart of primary care, not just treating people, but preventing people from becoming patients in the first place," he said.

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