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Progress on £645m funding negotiations ‘slower than we hoped’, CPE admits

“Complex” government policy systems have contributed to delays in delivering much-needed funding to pharmacies, according to Community Pharmacy England (CPE).

In a blog posted earlier this week (September 4), CPE chief executive Janet Morrison revealed that “progress” towards the £645 million primary care recovery plan investment into pharmacies “has been slower than we had hoped”.

She explained that the delay was “because of the complex matrix of government stakeholders invested in this particular policy”, which goes “right up to the Prime Minister’s office”.

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

CPE “will share news as soon as [it] possibly can”, Ms Morrison said, adding that she hopes pharmacy owners “stay engaged” with the negotiator during this “difficult period”.

 

“Critical funding”

 

Ms Morrison said that it was “critical” that the investment is “flowing into pharmacies quickly”.

She highlighted that “there has been no respite for pharmacies this summer” and that “pharmacy teams are still providing a safety net for other parts of primary care, with increasing numbers of patients”.

Read more: HSCC chair urges government to deliver extra pharmacy funding 'fast'

She added that CPE has been “working through some big questions” with NHS England (NHSE) and the government to “ensure that new services are workable and that all of this investment gets to where it needs to go”.

And Ms Morrison said that CPE is “also preparing for the upcoming negotiations” on the 2024/25 pharmacy contract, including “putting together our business case to bid for a funding uplift and looking at what other demands we can make which would make a genuine positive difference”.

 

DH: No delays

 

The Department of Health and Social Care (DH) stressed that there are no delays to the investment and that the timeline for its implementation has not changed.

It pointed to the primary care recovery plan, which said in May that Pharmacy First will launch “before the end of 2023”, subject to consultation.

But CPE had said in July that negotiations on the expanded services - including around payment - could conclude as soon as that month.

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

Discussions are ongoing to ensure that the cash injection will benefit patients, staff and the primary care sector, the DH said.

The £645m injection into community pharmacy came as part of a two-year plan to “expand community pharmacy services” in England, NHSE said at the time.

Under the new Pharmacy First scheme funded by the investment, patients will be able to get a prescription from their pharmacist for seven minor illnesses including earache and urinary tract infections without having to see their GP first. 

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