Contractors in the area have been paying half the normal fee since May but after a unanimous decision at an LPC meeting in November, it was decided that the fee should be waived altogether until March next year, North of Tyne LPC announced last month (November 13).
The budget for the 2020-21 financial year was set by the LPC committee in January. However, “early in the new financial year”, the LPC realised that it would not need its full budget as the outbreak of COVID-19 brought along some savings, including a move to virtual committee meetings and reduced staff expenses.
The LPC had also planned to support pharmacies to become healthy living pharmacies “as an essential service within the contractual framework”. However, “the pandemic made it inappropriate for LPC staff to be visiting pharmacies and for pharmacies to do much beyond core service provision to ensure patients had access to their medication”, it said.
In May, the LPC introduced a 50% reduction to its levy to “reduce LPC reserves” and offer financial support to contractors “at a time of unprecedented pressure on finances and cash flow”.
At a meeting earlier this month, it agreed to scrap the levy fee until March 31 next year.
“Grateful to pharmacy teams”
Chris Dodd, independent vice chair at the LPC, said: “The decision by the LPC to move from a 50% levy reduction to a levy holiday is very welcome.
“The pandemic has resulted in significant additional pressures and costs to community pharmacy and this decision reflects the support that North of Tyne LPC has provided contractors throughout, including securing income protection for our locally commissioned services,” he added.
The LPC said its decision to introduce what it described as “a levy holiday” was partly a result of “the unique nature” of the partnership with its provider company Pharmacy Services North East (PSNE), which since 2016 has secured locally commissioned services and ensured contractors receive timely payment for these.
PSNE operations manager Ann Gunning said: “We are very grateful to pharmacy teams who, despite the pandemic, have been running and claiming services efficiently using PharmOutcomes, which has allowed PSNE to control running costs and provide additional support to its constituent LPCs at this unprecedented time.”
The LPC will review its levy holiday “early in 2021”, as the budget is set for 2021-22.