Speaking to C+D earlier this month (November 18), ahead of the £113 million cut to pharmacy funding in England, Avon LPC chief officer Richard Brown said: “We can’t change the message [of the cuts], but we can demystify it for people.”
The way the cuts have been implemented could cause a serious cash-flow shortage over the next four months, and result in pharmacy closures in his area, Mr Brown stressed.
“But I have to be optimistic. I have to find ways in which pharmacies can generate income and keep their businesses afloat,” he told C+D.
“[Pharmacists] should be wringing every single penny out of their business to make sure they are sustainable,” he added.
In an effort to get contractors to “save for a rainy day”, Avon LPC introduced a series of one-hour workshops – the first round of which were rolled out this month – and online tools to help pharmacists analyse what the funding cuts might mean for their businesses.
“Since the original [funding] announcement last year, we have been doing a lot of activity around [pharmacy services],” Mr Brown said.
“We have been asking: are pharmacists maximising the services that are available?" he said. "Are pharmacists maximising medicine use reviews (MURs) and the new medicine service (NMS)?"
"Can they look at other revenue sources, like private patient group directions?”
After introducing an MUR and NMS support manager, Jerry Long – who was made available to all 234 pharmacies in the LPC's area as part of on a six-month interim project – Mr Brown said “something like eight to 10 pharmacies” that were not completing any of these services “[now feel able to] achieve their 400 MUR target this year”.
One-to-one support on qualifying for funding
Since the government confirmed the final details of the funding drop on October 20, Mr Long's role has developed and his main aim now is to provide one-to-one support to pharmacies so they can earn back money through the Quality Payments Scheme.
To qualify for the points-based scheme, pharmacies must first answer four “gateway questions”: on whether they provide at least one specified advanced service, have an up-to-date NHS Choices entry, and use the electronic prescription service.
Staff must also have the ability to “send and receive NHS mail”, which Mr Brown said is the “biggest risk” for pharmacies in the region not qualifying for the funding.
“Most people are telling us they have not got NHS mail accounts, so we know we have to put pressure on our national lobbying bodies to get that sorted for us,” he said.
“Jerry took the time to call up all of our independent colleagues and invite them to the training workshops," Mr Brown added.
"We’re working with [local] area managers to work out how best to coordinate our efforts through the multiples, but we know that some of the larger guys have their own internal processes for dealing with these things, which is fine.”
How are you preparing for the funding cuts? Share your examples by emailing [email protected]