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Negotiator slams government for imposing ‘untested’ concession changes

The pharmacy negotiator opposes new changes announced in the April drug tariff “in the strongest terms”, it has said.  

Last week (March 28), Community Pharmacy England (CPE) announced that the Department of Health and Social Care (DH) had introduced “changes to [its] approach to concessions pricing”.

In the April drug tariff, also published last week, the DH said that Category M reimbursement prices for April to June 2024 would “ordinarily” have resulted in a “downward margin adjustment” of £16.2 million.

But it announced that it will “instead” take the downward adjustment from concessionary prices for the same period, meaning that these “may be lower than they would have been”.

It added that it will still “accept concessionary price requests from CPE as normal but will change its approach” to deciding the prices.

“Requests should nevertheless continue to come in as normal,” it said.

 

“Very serious consequences”

 

CPE stressed that the “untested” changes “have been imposed by the government without [the negotiator’s] agreement” and that it "opposes them in the strongest terms”.

It told C+D that the imposed price restrictions may lead to some pharmacies dispensing at a loss.

While it admitted that “it is unclear exactly how the department’s changes will work in practice”, CPE said that “no recovery or downward pressure on margin is acceptable given the financial fragility of community pharmacies”.

“Any further pressure on pharmacies to dispense at a loss will have very serious consequences for the sector, patients and the wider primary care system,” it added.

CPE chief executive Janet Morrison said that “any system that is based on an expectation of dispensing at a loss” is “unacceptable”.

She called the changes “yet another example of tinkering at the edges while inadequate pharmacy funding arrangements leave pharmacies struggling to stay open”.

CPE said that it is “continuing to fight these changes…alongside the ongoing negotiations on 2024/25 funding” and has called for an “urgent review of medicines supply and margin systems to assure safety for patients and economic stability for pharmacies”.

C+D approached the DH for comment.

Meanwhile, the negotiator also revealed last week that negotiations for the England 2024/25 core contract “are still in progress” despite the previous five-year deal ending this month. 

“Until these negotiations have concluded, fee levels will remain the same and existing service arrangements will continue as previously announced,” it said. 

And last month Community Pharmacy Wales (CPW) announced that it had “not been possible” to conclude discussions for the new Welsh core contract before April either.

 

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