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DH ‘committed’ to October launch for next tier of contraception service

The Department of Health and Social Care (DH) is steaming ahead with plans to launch tier two of the national community pharmacy contraception service in early October, it has confirmed.

“Subject to a positive evaluation of the pilot”, the DH “remains committed” to introducing the next tier of the service on October 4, it told contractors in a letter dated May 12.

The expansion of the service will let community pharmacists in England initiate oral contraception via a patient group direction (PGD), as well as “provide ongoing clinical checks and annual reviews”, it said.

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

It follows the bumpy launch for tier one of the contraception service, which kicked off on April 24 despite protestations from the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) that no new or expanded services should be rolled out this year without extra funding from the government.

However, the negotiator now appears to be reserving judgement towards the service pending ongoing negotiations that will give a clearer picture of its “affordability” for contractors.

Read more: PSNC stance on contraception service ‘unchanged’ despite funding pledge

It came after the announcement of a two-year £645 million cash investment in community pharmacy services, announced last week (May 9) by NHS England (NHSE) as part of its long-awaited primary care recovery plan.

The pharmacy contraception service looks set to benefit from the cash injection, as does the hypertension case-finding service and the newly announced Pharmacy First service. However, how the investment will be divided between the services is subject to negotiations between PSNC and the government.

 

Work ongoing to “relieve current pressures”

 

The letter stressed that the DH will not “seek to introduce any further clinical services beyond those agreed last September from within the current funding envelope”. Since 2019, community pharmacy funding in England has stood at a flat £2.5bn annually as part of a five-year deal.

However, in a decision on funding for the last two years of the deal, the government announced in September that it would waive £100m in excess margin.

In the letter, the DH said that it and NHSE would “continue our current work with PSNC on what more can be done to relieve the current pressures contractors are facing”.

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

However, it did not specify what this would entail.

The tier one launch of the contraception service has proved controversial, with Day Lewis announcing that it would pause its rollout of the scheme until "progress" was made with funding.

And London Local Pharmaceutical Committees earlier this month (May 3) urged the 1,498 pharmacies it represents to opt out of the service, citing concerns that NHSE had not “taken on board the warning on the perilous funding situation of many community pharmacy contractors by PSNC”.

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