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CPE: Government's ‘positive spin’ on five-year deal ‘completely at odds’ with truth

“Nobody in community pharmacy is anywhere close to being in celebratory mode”, the pharmacy negotiator’s chief executive has said. 

Commissioners’ “celebration” over the launch of Pharmacy First ignores the “deeply distressing truth”, Community Pharmacy England (CPE) chief executive Janet Morrison has said.

In an April blog post sent to pharmacies yesterday (April 10), Morrison reflected on the end of the five-year community pharmacy contractual framework (CPCF), which CPE last month confirmed will roll over until 2024/25 contract negotiations conclude.

She said that as the end of the deal looms, “it’s likely that commissioners of pharmacy services will want to focus on all that has been achieved” by the sector. 

She added that community pharmacies “played a critical role” throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and that the expansion of pharmacy services over the last five years “has been nothing short of heroic”.

“In recent months, there has been yet more celebration about the launch of Pharmacy First”, she said.

“But this positive spin from commissioners is completely at odds with the deeply distressing truth”, she added. 

She said that “while pharmacies have certainly achieved a spectacular amount” since the last contract was agreed, “nobody in community pharmacy is anywhere close to being in celebratory mode”.

“This is a sector on its knees with the current wave of closures and financial losses likely to continue unless and until [the] government and the NHS change course,” she added.

C+D approached NHS England (NHSE) and the Department of Health and Social Care (DH) for comment

 

 “Catastrophic state” of sector

 

Morrison added that “the catastrophic state of business finances” was “of course the focus” of discussions with NHSE and DH on the new contract.

She said that CPE “set out the need for an uplift to the core global sum reflecting the grave state of sector finances”.

The negotiator also argued for “margin write offs”, a new funding mechanism “linked to activity and inflation”, “annual uplifts to service fees”, an “economic review of the medicine supply chain” and “more fundamental reform of the margin delivery framework”, she added.

She admitted that “a backdrop of challenging primary care funding settlements and constrained public spending” means that negations are “complex”.

Morrison said that “the financial fragility of pharmacies” has been “noted” by NHSE and “presented” to the DH. 

Earlier this week, C+D reported that 13 MPs from across the political spectrum have signed a letter to health secretary Victoria Atkins calling for more support for community pharmacy.

The letter came after pharmacy minister Dame Andrea Leadsom told the health and social care committee (HSCC) that the community pharmacy sector “continues to be a thriving market”.

But earlier this month, financial documents from Well Pharmacy revealed a £29 million loss in 2023 amid “significant challenges due to changes within the flat funding contract”.

And in March, Weldricks’ operations director told C+D that its 2023 loss of £1.4m was caused by inflation “running ahead of the rate” that the pharmacy was getting paid.

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