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NPA criticises government's failure to tackle dispensing at a loss

The NPA: Further consideration on drug reimbursement needed to avoid potential consequences
The NPA: Further consideration on drug reimbursement needed to avoid potential consequences

The NPA has criticised the government’s failure to address the “deeply unfair” problem of dispensing at a loss in its recent drug reimbursement consultation.

As part of the five-year funding contract for England, the Department of Health and Social Care (DH) launched a consultation on a series of drug reimbursement reforms for community pharmacy in July.

The DH's proposals included: changing how category A, C and M prices are set; changing the arrangements for reimbursing and procuring unlicensed medicines; and splitting the discount deduction scale into one for generics and one for brands.

The National Pharmacy Association (NPA) told C+D it “sees the merit” in many of the DH’s proposals outlined in the consultation – which closed on Tuesday (September 17) – but “we don’t see any serious effort to properly address the ongoing deeply unfair problem of dispensing at a loss”.

“We urge further careful consideration of a number of these proposals in order to avoid potential consequences,” the NPA added.

In a letter to the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) sent in June, ahead of the announcement of the funding contract, NPA chief executive Mark Lyonette called for an overhaul of pharmacy payment mechanisms, to ensure timely payments and to “address the nonsense of dispensing at a loss”.

Contractors must “have reasonable certainty of what they will be reimbursed and that they will not be dispensing at a loss”, Mr Lyonette said at the time.

AIMp chief: Keep engaging with the DH

The Association of Independent Multiple Pharmacies (AIMp) chief executive Leyla Hannbeck agreed with the NPA that “there is no mention of dispensing at a loss” in the DH's consultation.

It is good to see the DH looking into ways to change pharmacy’s payment systems, she told C+D, but stressed that the consultation “doesn’t go far enough”.

Despite the consultation closing on Tuesday, Ms Hannbeck urged pharmacists to keep engaging with the DH on the “very important topic” of drug reimbursement.

“The more we talk about it, and the more we respond to DH consultations, the better it will be from the sector's perspective,” she said.

What changes would you like to see to the drug reimbursement system?

Chris Locum, Locum pharmacist

I think in management circles it is called 'Delphi Technique'. Councils do it all the time. A decision is made in advance, and then a consultation is initiated to convey the idea that you have input in the process. You do not. If there is a massive audience, there will be a few people planted to steer the whole process away from any dissenting point of view. Virginia Bottomley, an old conservative minister for health, stated that losses on individual prescription supplies were immaterial. It was about being funded overall. The view does not appear to have changed over the last 20 years, and they still are determined to close a significant proportion of high street pharmacies.

Sunil Patel, Pharmacy owner/ Proprietor

Agree that as contractors we need to keep engaged with such important matters that affect our sector. I am yet to see the NPA engage with independents on a consulation before they send off their response, so need to rely on ourselves. 

Stephen Fishwick, Manager

Hello Sunil, the NPA invites members to give their views on every consultation to which we respond, but we're always seeking to improve the level of engagement (hence latest round of member forums across the country), to ensure our representations to govnt fully reflect the front line reality for independents. One straightfoward route to give us your opinion on any matter of public policy or regulation is via [email protected]

[NPA Head of Comms]

SP Ph, Community pharmacist

All we get from the Govt. and the responsible organisations (GPhC,PSNC et. al.) is a consultation. I am yet to see a major consultation result, that has been seriously taken and the points mentioned being implemented. Just an eyewash (not the Optrex one)

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