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‘Building blocks for a clinical future’: CPE boss on primary care plan reforms

Read Community Pharmacy England (CPE) chief executive Janet Morrison’s full statement on a raft of upcoming developments for contractors in England – including a launch date for the long-awaited national Pharmacy First service

For pharmacy owners who are struggling to keep their businesses above water, looking to the future is incredibly challenging. But today’s announcement is a huge positive for the sector – it will allow new money to flow into pharmacies, building on the immense contribution they played during the pandemic offering accessible advice and support in every community.

It creates the building blocks for a clinical future maximising the use of the skills and professional competence of pharmacists and their teams. Though it will not be an easy agreement to deliver on, it is the most significant investment into community pharmacy in many years and it was no surprise that the CPE committee were united in their unanimous decision to accept the final deal.

Read more: Launch dates announced for Pharmacy First and contraception services

Our focus will now turn to getting the money flowing to pharmacies and to preparing our long-term strategy to improve the sector’s future. Pharmacy First will help with this strategy, laying the foundations for future clinical services and establishing the sector as an increasingly vital part of primary care, offering an open door for the public and patients, relieving pressure and releasing capacity in other frontline NHS services.

This is the future that the sector told the Nuffield Trust and The King’s Fund that it wanted, and this was backed by our own summer polling, in which 86% of respondents said they were positive about delivering a Pharmacy First service. We all now need to work together to make it a success, delivering real value to patients and the public using all our skills and capabilities.

Read more: Pharmacy First funding breakdown: Upfront, monthly and consultation fees

Alongside Pharmacy First, the government and the NHS have responded to our calls for additional funding for other services. While it is frustrating that the fees for the blood pressure check service and the new pharmacy contraception service will not change, £75 million per year additional funding has been made available to support the expansion of these services.

This means many more consultations are achievable without putting pressure on the core contractual sum, and we hope pharmacies will be able to offer even more valued support to patients. We will be working hard over the coming months with partners across the sector to promote these services and to make them as manageable as possible for pharmacy owners and their teams. And we will be carefully monitoring the uptake of services and funding delivery to protect pharmacy owners.

Read more: Pharmacy First negotiations ‘concluded’, CPE chief announces

This is a critical funding injection and welcome vote of confidence in our future from the government and the NHS. It will not solve pharmacy's funding crisis: we have been clear on that throughout this complex negotiation, and we continue to press for further investment through our influencing and advocacy work programme.

Our negotiating team has been managing the very delicate balance between the need to get vital funds flowing into pharmacies as quickly as possible and the importance of getting funding on the right terms, setting down markers for what will be needed now and for the future.

As a result of this hard work, the final deal has come a long way from what was originally put on the table, not least with the inclusion of upfront payments, bringing the new money into play faster without counting towards the ringfenced contractual framework, writing off fee over-delivery of over £100m, and making headway on IT integration, use of skill-mix and more.

Read more: Overcoming challenges to achieve the Pharmacy First vision

There is a lot of work going on to support the implementation of today’s agreement – the tripartite implementation group is working hard on the roll-out of the services, their technical infrastructure and funding as well as planning the national public communications campaigns for Pharmacy First. We are working hard to ensure that we can actively jointly manage the roll-out of the service to ensure it achieves its potential. Alongside this we hope to be back in the negotiating room soon to start discussing what the community pharmacy contractual framework will look like from April 2024.

We continue to call for an increase to core funding to safeguard the sector’s future health. The recent publication of the “vision for community pharmacy” has helped to shape the investment case for the sector, with our committee now drawing up a strategy to help build a sustainable pharmacy network that’s fit for the future.

Janet Morrison is the chief executive of Community Pharmacy England (CPE)

Check the C+D site for the latest coverage on this developing story

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