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UPDATED: DH ‘rejects’ finding it failed to meet pledges to review pharmacy funding

The government has rejected an independent expert panel’s finding that it had not met its commitment to review the funding model for community pharmacy.

The Department of Health and Social Care (DH) today (October 19) published its response to a health and social care committee (HSCC) independent expert panel’s evaluation of pharmacy-related commitments made by the government.

Read more: HSCC gives scathing review of DH progress on pharmacy pledges

The panel’s review, published in July, found that it had performed inadequately or needed improvement in meeting most of its pledges as well as “clear” evidence that pharmacies are “struggling to deliver services” with existing funding.

But the DH today said that it “rejects” the “finding that it had failed to meet a commitment to review the funding model for community pharmacy”, according to the HSCC.


“Committed” to economic analysis of sector


The DH response stressed that community pharmacy funding was agreed under the five-year deal in 2019 but that the government and NHS England (NHSE) “continue to monitor and discuss progress" with the negotiator “on a regular basis”.

It added that the “overall level of funding remains subject to affordability and consultation with the sector on the activity that can be delivered within that funding envelope”.

Read more: Pharmacy funding in ‘hibernation’ amid government ‘prejudice’ and mistrust

And it said that the DH “therefore [does] not agree with the panel’s rating that this commitment has not been met/requires improvement”.

It also stressed that NHSE had “committed to an economic analysis of the sector…[to] inform future funding arrangements”.


Due to launch in March


In January, NHSE began searching for an independent supplier to undertake a “comprehensive” analysis of pharmacy contractors’ “current financial situation”.

It said that the review would determine “the extent to which services are able to be efficiently delivered from community pharmacy, rather than provided elsewhere within primary care and the wider NHS”.

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

At the time, it revealed that the economic review was due to kick off in March and expected to take nine months to complete.

And the pharmacy negotiator said in March that the economic review into pharmacy funding was expected to kick off “shortly”, amid a DH admission that it had not considered the impact of funding on English community pharmacy closures since 2019.


CPE “analysing plans”


But a Community Pharmacy England (CPE) briefing released after last month’s committee meeting revealed that it had been “analysing NHSE’s plan for the independent economic review of the sector”.

It said that the committee was “presented” with NHSE’s proposals for the review, which had been promised as part of the contractual arrangements for 2022/23 and 2023/24, and “asked to decide whether they wished to support it”.

The briefing said the committee “explored the key concerns identified” and the “potential risks of not participating” but that there was “ultimately…unanimous agreement” to participate in the “complex project”.

Read more: NHSE economic review chance to ‘prove’ unsustainability of pharmacies

The HSCC’s scathing July review found that the government had “not met” its commitment to review how community pharmacy is funded and warned that the impact of the funding deficiency negatively affected commitments “across multiple policy areas”.

Although it rated the government’s progress as “inadequate” in terms of whether it had met the commitment, it rated progress overall as “requires improvement”.


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