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£5m retained margin uplift ‘approved’ in Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland’s health minister has said he will increase the margin retained by pharmacies by £5 million, but only if the NI negotiator agrees “a concurrent margin survey methodology”. 

“An increase of the retained margin from £26.5m to £31.5m” is up for grabs for Northern Irish pharmacies, the government has revealed.

Yesterday (April 15), Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) member of the legislative assembly (MLA) for North Antrim and minister of health Robin Swann said that he had “approved” the £5m margin increase.

But he added that this increase is “on [the] condition” that Community Pharmacy Northern Ireland (CPNI) agrees to changes with the margin survey.

He said that CPNI must agree “a concurrent margin survey methodology” but it remains unclear what the proposed methodology changes are.

 

“I have no budget available”

 

However, the health minister also stressed that “there is no provision for additional funding for the community pharmacy sector in the current assessed budget available to health”, admitting that this “is disappointing”.

“We are facing significant financial difficulties, but I want to work as closely as possible in partnership with community pharmacies,” he added.

He made the comment in response to a question from Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) MLA for Belfast North Brian Kingston, who asked whether the minister was “aware of the crisis in funding for community pharmacies”.

Kingston also asked whether Swann was “seeking to take forward any sort of review of the funding arrangements or…just accepting that there is no money available”.

Swan replied that he has “no budget available” but later added that “it is not that there are no moneys there”.

He stressed he had “already made” funding “commitments” to CPNI and that they “continue to engage as to how we can progress and support it”.

 

Negotiations “yet to commence”

 

A CPNI spokesperson told C+D today (April 16) that “discussion and negotiations” on the details referred to by the health minister “have yet to commence”.

“CPNI will only be in a position provide a further update should any of these matters be progressed,” they added. 

Meanwhile, the English pharmacy negotiator confirmed last month that fee levels and service arrangements will “remain the same” until ongoing negotiations for the delayed 2024/25 contract have concluded.

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