One contractor has lost tens of thousands of pounds due to late payments for enhanced services, and several have seen paperwork relating to pharmacy ownership changes delayed for several months, they have told C+D.
The complaints have prompted one MP to demand that the government reviews Capita's contract.
The problems have arisen because of ongoing issues at Capita, the business services provider contracted by NHS England to provide primary care support services for community pharmacies and general practices.
The Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) wrote to NHS England last week to raise its concerns about the “unacceptable” service provided by Capita. The negotiator demanded that contractors “are not penalised” if problems arise, and any losses resulting from delays are “dealt with speedily and fairly by NHS England”.
Non-payment of services
Graham Phillips, superintendent pharmacist of Manor Pharmacy Group in Hertfordshire, told C+D he is owed more than £30,000 after “an error [that] has resulted in the non-payment of pharmacy enhanced service claims for May 2016".
According to an email from NHS England's regional team for south east England – seen by C+D – Capita staff may have "misread emails instructing them to pay” Mr Phillips.
Capita also has responsibility for processing new pharmacy applications, and Mr Phillips says he has yet to receive a decision on two market entry applications – for pharmacies in Newington and Ramsgate, Kent – despite submitting the relevant paperwork to Capita in early March and early April, respectively.
“They are failing to deal with the admin and it’s gone on for months", he told C+D. “It shows the general indifference that exists towards community pharmacy. How can I cope with this and pharmacy cuts?”
Mr Phillips has written to his local MP Craig Mackinlay – whose wife is a community pharmacist – to raise Capita’s ongoing problems in parliament.
The Conservative MP for South Thanet has approached Capita and NHS England after receiving “a number of complaints”, but told C+D that “Capita hence far failed to respond”. He called on health secretary Jeremy Hunt to review the Capita contract.
"I am aware of a number of complaints about Capita failing to provide contracted services promptly to pharmacists. It is wrong that a private company can fail to provide services that they have been contracted to provide. My view is that the secretary of state should now review this contract.”
A spokesperson for Capita said: "We are still in a transition period and making steady progress as we move towards a fully transformed service that will deliver an effective and efficient service enabling substantial savings released to use in frontline services."
"The system is melting down" - what other pharmacists say about Capita
Mike Keen, chair of Kent local pharmaceutical committee (LPC)
“Market entry applications are a real concern. I’m aware that paperwork has gone missing, and there has been poor communication with LPCs. I’m aware of nine applications where things have gone wrong, and possibly a further six experiencing delays, but there could be more.
“Contractors face the threat of a clawback, cuts to the global sum, and now this system has been foisted on us. We’re dealing with people’s livelihoods here. Capita are making excuses, things are worse now than they have ever been and they jolly well need to sort it out.”
Tony Schofield, community pharmacist
“In February this year I applied to change the legal ownership of one of our pharmacies. The General Pharmaceutical Council processed it efficiently. However the original application to NHS England, posted to the Newcastle office, was redirected to Darlington, Leeds and then Walsall.
“By late May I was very frustrated and spent hours on the phone only to learn the Walsall office had closed. Eventually I ascertained that no-one had even looked at files sent to them from Walsall as they had too much work on. We eventually got approval [in] mid-July. The system is melting down.”
Keith Jardine, community pharmacist
“The lack of feedback and updates is frustrating. I am giving [Capita] a chance but can see the four-month application timescale elapsing before a decision has been made.”