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Pharmacies will be in ‘survival’ mode for the next six months, sector leaders warn

Pharmacy leaders have stressed that the immediate future of pharmacy will come down to “survival” at this year’s Pharmacy Show conference in Birmingham.

Nick Kaye, chair of the National Pharmacy Association (NPA), told delegates at the Pharmacy Show yesterday (October 15) that “until we get primary care recovery plan monies”, the “next six months” for pharmacy owners will be about “survival”.

Mr Kaye made the comments as part of a keynote panel discussion on the future of community pharmacy.

Read more: CPE ‘hopes to have concluded’ £645m funding negotiations by November

Also speaking in the panel discussion, Association of Independent Multiple pharmacies (AIMp) chief executive Dr Leyla Hannbeck told delegates that the “reality” is that “in six months’ time we will see more community pharmacists shutting their doors for good”.

She said that “there will be consolidations, financial pressure [and] some struggling to survive and [keep their] heads above water”.

Read more: ‘Enormous pressures’: MPs flag pharmacy funding, workforce and drug supply woes

Community Pharmacy England (CPE) director of NHS services Alastair Buxton added that Dr Hannbeck was “absolutely right” and that the “survival of the next six months…is going to be a key issue” for “a lot of businesses”.

He said that CPE “certainly hopes that some” of the upcoming £645 million pharmacy funding injection “will help, but it’s not going to solve it all”.

During a Q&A part of the discussion, one delegate told the panel “it’s not survival” but that pharmacists are “firefighting every day”.

 

Return of NCSO?

 

The panel also discussed issues with price concessions, with Company Chemists Association (CCA) head of policy Nick Thayer saying that “fundamentally the way that margins and pricing of drugs is done is broken”.

He called the current system of “another era” and said that it “needs to be rethought”, but stressed that the “reality is that…there will always be winners and losers”.

But Dr Hannbeck revealed that AIMp is “pushing” to “bring back" the No Cheaper Stock Obtained (NCSO) system, which she said “used to be an easier way forward”.

Read more: Pharmacists call for urgent NCSO overhaul

She said that AIMp has “put it out there” within discussions with the Department of Health and Social Care (DH) and “needs to discuss with CPE”.

However, responding to the “idea” on behalf of the negotiator, Mr Buxton said that it is “not going to happen”.

“There's no way [the DH is] going to introduce that because that system was effectively a blank check for pharmacy owners”, he added.

The endorsement system, which has not been in use since April 2013, was branded "not fit for purpose" after CPE – then known as PSNC - found that a quarter of claims were going unpaid.

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