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London LPCs urge their 1,498 pharmacies to opt out of contraception service

Pharmacy London has recommended that the 1,498 local pharmacies it represents do not sign up to the NHS pharmacy contraception service, C+D has learned.

The organisation, which represents just under 1,500 pharmacies out of the 1,815 in London, has written a letter to its members recommending that they do not sign up to the NHS contraception service.

Tier one of the service commenced last week – despite the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee’s (PSNC) insistence that it had not agreed to the April 24 launch date.

Read more: Day Lewis halts pharmacy contraception service until funding progress made

The letter, exclusively shared with C+D yesterday (May 2), said that it is “disappointing but to be expected” that NHS England (NHSE) had not “taken on board the warning on the perilous funding situation of many community pharmacy contractors by PSNC”.

Pharmacy London said it supports national bodies such as PSNC in their previously published statements urging contractors to “carefully consider the facts before signing up to this service”.


“Do not sign up”


The letter said that Pharmacy London supports “the need for more clinical services from community pharmacy”, which is “ideally located” and “readily and conveniently accessible”.

But it said that “access is being eroded” by NHSE and the Department of Health and Social Care’s (DH) “belligerence not to accept the dire state of community pharmacy finances”, referring to a “strategy of attrition adopted” by them.

Read more: Pharmacy leaders make funding plea as contraception service launch date looms

“The Pharmacy London board recommends that contractors do not sign up for the service, until the service is funded adequately to ensure that it can be delivered safely to women”, the letter said.

This will “send a clear message to [the DH] that we will not engage in extra services which compromise patient safety”, it added.


Will lead to closures


According to Pharmacy London, the contraception service “does not add a single penny to the pharmacy budget”.

“All it means is a transfer of money from our dispensing fees”, the letter said, adding that “the implications on the funding of the service on community pharmacy finances would mean pharmacists providing services at a loss”. 

It added that "new advanced services mean lower dispensing fees, dispensing at a loss and ultimately pharmacy closures”.


Act of protest


The letter added that community pharmacists “will never strike” because the sector “has always put patients first”.

But CEO of Pharmacy London Hitesh Patel told C+D that the letter serves as “a strong message” to the government.

“Community pharmacies would very much like to take some sort of strike action but we really can't because…the last thing we want is to stop dispensing for patients,” he said.

Read more: Pharmacy contraception service: Is this the straw that breaks the camel’s back?

He added that the DH “knows that community pharmacies won’t go on strike because we care too much about our patients, so we'd rather focus on a new service where if we don't provide it, it's not going to affect our patients” because they “haven't started using” it.

This is an “indication” to the DH “that we're not happy to do any more services unless there is extra funding for them”, Mr Patel said. 

Read more: PSNC hits back as DH ploughs ahead with reduced PQS amid 'imposed' changes

“We are really happy to do any service that they want to create…but if there isn't any extra funding for any new services that come along, we are not happy to provide that for the same amount of funding that we've been receiving for the last five years”, he told C+D.

C+D approached NHSE and the DH for comment.


A controversial service


It follows a letter shared on social media last week that said Day Lewis pharmacies will not be rolling out the NHS contraception service until funding for the pharmacy sector improves, despite the multiple already spending £100,000 on training its staff to deliver the service.

Meanwhile, the NHS Business Services Authority (NHSBSA) has confirmed that just 456 out of around 11,500 community pharmacies in England (4%) were slated to offer new service within the first two days after sign-up opened on April 24.

Pharmacy bodies have lobbied for the rollout of the service to be paused, warning that community pharmacy’s funding crisis could hamper its success.

This includes the National Pharmacy Association (NPA), which last week announced that it “cannot support the immediate roll out of this service” and urged NHSE and its members to “pause and reflect before further implementation”.

Pharmacy London represents 12 local pharmaceutical committees (LPCs) covering 1,498 community pharmacies:

  • Barnet, Enfield & Harringey LPC
  • Bexley Bromley & Greenwich LPC
  • Brent & Harrow LPC
  • Camden and Islington LPC
  • City & Hackney LPC
  • Croydon LPC
  • Ealing, Hammersmith & Hounslow LPC
  • Hillingdon LPC
  • Kensington Chelsea & Westminster LPC
  • Kingston & Richmond LPC
  • Lambeth Lewisham& Southwark LPC
  • Merton, Sutton & Wandsworth LPC

However, it does not represent North East London (NEL) LPC and the 317 pharmacies it covers.

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