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Pharmacy First IT: ‘Urgent action’ needed to prevent payments ‘chaos’, warns NPA

The National Pharmacy Association (NPA) has demanded that the NHS Business Services Authority takes “urgent action” to fix faults in Pharmacy First IT systems that could leave pharmacies “out of pocket” by “thousands of pounds”.

The independent pharmacy membership body today (March 8) said that the NHS Manage Your Service (MYS) portal is “flawed” after pharmacies flagged that it “failed to report correct figures” for the number of Pharmacy First consultations delivered.

Community Pharmacy England (CPE) announced in November that pharmacies would be able to claim “a £15 item of service (IoS) fee for each Pharmacy First consultation”.

But the NPA today said that its members have experienced “discrepancies that meant that MYS recorded fewer consultations than entered…potentially leaving them out of pocket” by “thousands of pounds”.

Read more: ‘Going round in circles’: Pharmacy First consultations halted by IT crash

The NPA added that the NHS Business Services Authority (NHSBSA), which administers payments to pharmacies, “said the system had been fixed”.

“But pharmacies are still reporting problems”, it said, adding that the NHSBSA must “take urgent action” to prevent “chaos” with the payment process.

Read more: Sector calls for ‘clearer Pharmacy First messaging’ amid patient aggression

The NHSBSA stressed that the issue “was not caused by a flaw in the MYS system” and is instead due to the data it receives “from IT system suppliers”.

It told C+D that it is working to resolve the issue “as a matter of urgency” and does not “anticipate this having an impact on payments to pharmacies”.

Earlier this week (March 4), CPE highlighted that the NHSBSA had extended the deadline to make Pharmacy First payment claims for February until 5pm on March 15 due to a “technical issue”.


“Deeply alarming”


Chief executive of the NPA Paul Rees deemed the issue “deeply alarming”.

He said that it is “vital we get IT issues sorted so hard-pressed pharmacies can have faith they will be paid correctly for the work they have done for the NHS”.

Read more: Sector bodies launch manifesto calling for ‘expanded’ Pharmacy First service

He called the extended claims deadline “good news…in the short run” but said that NPA members “need full assurances for the future that this system is robust and reliable”.

“They have to rely on the NHS IT system to be funded for the work and pay their own bills,” he added.


NHSBSA: “Doing everything we can”


A spokesperson for the NHSBSA said it is “aware that there have been discrepancies in the figures for urgent medicine consultations for a number of pharmacy contractors”.

But they stressed that this “was not caused by a flaw in the MYS system” and is instead due to the data it receives “from IT system suppliers”.

Read more:  Pharmacy First: IT updates could be delayed by ‘months’

“We can assure all pharmacy contractors that we are doing everything we can to make sure they are paid appropriately, in full, and on time,” they said, adding that NHSBSA does not “anticipate this having an impact on payments to pharmacies”.

The spokesperson said that the NHSBSA is “working closely with system suppliers to resolve their issue as a matter of urgency” and has been notified by suppliers that they have contacted “anyone affected”.

“We, and the system supplier, will contact all affected contractors again next week to provide an update,” they added. 


Pharmacy First IT flubs


It comes after pharmacy contractors this week told C+D they have spent “hours” on the phone with Pharmacy First IT provider PharmOutcomes since it kicked users off the system for a security update.

And last month, parliamentary under-secretary for health and social care Lord Nick Markham told the House of Lords that, despite the service launching at the end of January, some IT systems were still “not ready”.

Read more: ‘A lot of failures’: Less than 40% of Pharmacy First consultations secure fee

He added that full GP Connect access would be ready “in the next few months”.

CPE had said that “from the launch” of Pharmacy First, contractors would “have access to more parts of the GP record” such as medications, observations and investigations.

Previously, C+D predicted that Pharmacy First IT system delays would “cause despair”.

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