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'Our funding is rotten': Sector needs £1.1bn now, warns AIMp chief

An immediate cash injection, in addition to funding for expanded services, is needed to help community pharmacy deal with inflation, AIMp chief Dr Leyla Hannbeck has warned.

In an exclusive interview with C+D last week (July 10), Association of Independent Multiple Pharmacies (AIMp) chief executive Dr Leyla Hannbeck argued that community pharmacy in England needs an immediate £1.1 billion cash injection.

With costs for community pharmacy rising “astronomically”, Dr Hannbeck called on the Department of Health and Social Care (DH) and NHS England (NHSE) to provide urgent relief for the sector.

But she stressed that this should come before the new pharmacy contract is negotiated and separate from the £645 million earmarked for expanded services such as the upcoming Pharmacy First programme.

Read more: ‘Aiming for agreement in July’: CPE chief gives service negotiations update

Dr Hannbeck pointed to the recent decision by the Scottish government to provide community pharmacies in the country with a £20m cash injection as the kind of action that the DH needed to take – although this is still “not enough”, she said.

She told C+D that AIMp has “robustly” calculated that there is an “immediate need for a cash injection to the sector” of £1.1bn “and rising, as inflation rises”.

A lack of core funding is “crippling the sector”, Dr Hannbeck said. “If you cannot run things because you don't have the cash, you end up closing,” she added. 


“Not enough noise from CPE”


She had sharp criticism for the sector's negotiator Community Pharmacy England (CPE), saying that it was “not talking” about the need for a cash injection.

“I'm pretty disappointed that there's not enough noise coming from CPE,” she said, adding that it was time for the sector to look at the way it negotiates.

“There's plenty of evidence that pharmacy can deliver if given the right opportunity. And there's plenty of evidence…[that] our funding is rotten,” she said.

Read more: UPDATED: Government injects £645m investment into community pharmacy

In May, the government announced a funded pharmacy common ailments scheme in England as part of a £645m investment into the sector over two years.

But Dr Hannbeck warned at the time that more needed to be done to “address the funding crisis” in community pharmacy.

She told C+D last week that core funding needs for the pharmacy sector must be dealt with separately from this funding earmarked for expanded services at community pharmacies, including the Pharmacy First, hypertension and oral contraceptive services.

Read more: All the reaction to NHSE's £645m plan to expand pharmacy services

She said it was “important to distinguish” the £645m over two years from her call for a further £1.1bn - an “immediate” need to pay for the goods and services currently delivered by community pharmacy. 

Dr Hannbeck told C+D that the government has been briefed by AIMp on the funding shortfall.

“Everything is going up,” she said, highlighting inflation in rent, energy, stock and staff costs. “But pharmacy funding hasn’t gone anywhere.” 


CPE “disappointed”


In response to Dr Hannbeck's comments, CPE chief executive Janet Morrison told C+D on Friday (July 14) that the negotiator is “disappointed” that AIMp has “chosen division over sector unity”, while CPE remains “committed to the latter”.

“The three AIMp contractors on our committee have spent two days this week, alongside all our committee members, considering the urgent issues that we need progress on including the critical ongoing negotiations on the £645m access fund and the current pressures as reported once again to us by the 800+ people who took part in our pre-committee polling,” she said.

Read more: Scottish government provides £20m pharmacy ‘interim cash injection’

Ms Morrison defended the negotiator's strategy for securing further funding.

"We are making the point that the sector needs additional core funding on a near daily basis to officials and parliamentarians and will continue to make the case for that, but alongside that, it would be indefensible to throw away the £645m that ministers have offered the sector and which businesses so desperately need,” she said.


DH recognises “importance” of pharmacy


Meanwhile, a DH spokesperson told C+D last week (July 13) that the government recognises “the importance of maintaining good access to pharmaceutical services for all patients”.

“We have announced additional funding of up to £645m for services on top of the agreed £2.6bn in the pharmacy framework,” they said.

Read more: Will additional funding for pharmacies prove to be a prescription for success?

The spokesperson added that the department is “carefully monitoring access to pharmaceutical services”.

They stressed that the two reimbursement arrangements in place to pay contractors are specifically designed to prevent pharmacy contractors dispensing at a loss.

Read more: ‘Far short of what is needed’: CPS rejects government's 2023/24 funding offer

In May, Holyrood announced an interim funding boost to “ease pressures related to medicines price increases”.

Representatives from Community Pharmacy Scotland (CPS) said at the time that the £20m “was not sufficient” to cover medicine cost inflation, reporting that their members were resorting to borrowing money “to keep their doors open”.

The Scottish government is in the midst of negotiating a new financial package for 2023/24, with its first offer “unanimously rejected” by CPS’s board as “far short of what is needed”.

Dr Hannbeck will chair two sessions at the Pharmacy Show in Birmingham this year, on October 15. Join her session on pharmacy funding from 10:45 at the Keynote Theatre and her session on the impact of hub-and-spoke dispensing from 13:15, also at the Keynote Theatre.

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