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DH and NHSE ‘rejected’ contraception service fee uplift, says CPE

A bid for an increase to the pharmacy contraception service fee was “rejected” by the government and NHS England (NHSE), the pharmacy negotiator has revealed.

NHSE yesterday (November 16) announced the long-awaited details of its primary care recovery plan reforms – including launching the new Pharmacy First service from “early next year” and expanding the pharmacy contraception and blood pressure check services from next month.

Under the reforms, the contraception service will be expanded to include the “initiation of oral contraception”, with both ongoing supply and initiation of the pill combined into one service.

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

And the relaunched hypertension case-finding service will see pharmacies deliver 2.5 million pharmacy blood pressure checks for “at-risk patients” by Spring 2025 – with pharmacists “[ramping] up” delivery “over the next year”. 

The revamped hypertension service will also see an “increased skill-mix and renewed focus on ambulatory blood pressure monitoring (ABPM), Community Pharmacy England (CPE) said.

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

CPE yesterday revealed that it had pushed for monthly payments to “support ongoing capacity” to deliver Pharmacy First, as well as for “an uplift in fees across all services”.

But although it was successful in securing a £1,000 monthly payment and additional fees for the new Pharmacy First service, its request for an increase to the contraception service fee was “rejected” by the Department of Health and Social Care (DH) and NHSE – despite its “detailed costing rationale”, it said.

A DH spokesperson stressed that the agreement on the deal was unanimous. C+D also approached NHSE for comment.

 

£75m per year “additional funding”

 

A joint CPE, NHSE and DH letter to contractors published yesterday morning stated that “fees for the blood pressure check service and the pharmacy contraception service will not change”.

But it added that £75m per year in “additional funding” had been made available to “support the expansion of both these services” – although it remains unclear how this will make its way to contractors.

This means that “many more consultations under these services are affordable and will not put pressure on the wider contractual sum”, it said.

Read more: DH ‘committed’ to October launch for next tier of contraception service

The letter outlined that the “wider non-registered pharmacy team members” can conduct both services if they have the “appropriate training”, are “competent” to deliver the services and where it is “legally possible”.

And it said that all contractors offering the services must update their pharmacy profile on NHS Profile Manager so that they are listed as providing them when patients search the NHS website and when other healthcare professionals and NHS 111 search for service providers.

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

Patients will be able to find local pharmacies that deliver the contraception service through the NHS website postcode search tool from the start of next month, it added.

According to NHSE, more than 100 pharmacies participated in the contraceptive pilot earlier this year, which saw more than 4,500 women who had already accessed the pill able to receive an ongoing supply of oral contraception at their local community pharmacy.

 

A controversial service

 

In May, NHSE and the DH released their primary care recovery plan – which announced a community pharmacy funding injection of “up to £645m” over two years to “expand” clinical services.

They said that the cash would fund a Pharmacy First service as well as expansions to the pharmacy oral contraceptive and blood pressure programmes – although it remained unclear how this would be divided up.

Read more: Leadsom: ‘Laying the foundations for better-supported pharmacies’

The pharmacy contraception service has proved controversial – coming under fire from the sector over a lack of funding. 

The tier one launch of the service was especially controversial, with Day Lewis announcing that it would pause its rollout of the scheme until "progress" was made with funding and London LPCs urging their 1,498 pharmacies to opt out.

But the DH restated plans to launch the second tier of the national community pharmacy contraception service in October back in May – although this has now been delayed by two months.

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

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