PSNC announced last month it was taking proposals for a service-based community pharmacy contract into its next round of funding negotiations with the Department of Health and Social Care (DH).
Speaking to C+D after her session at Sigma Pharmaceuticals’ annual conference in Borneo last week (February 12), PSNC chief executive Sue Sharpe said negotiations have not yet started on the sector's funding for 2018-19.
She “hopes” that discussions will begin before PSNC and the National Pharmacy Association’s (NPA) parallel High Court appeals against the pharmacy funding cuts in England, which are scheduled to be heard over three days from May 22, she told C+D.
Ms Sharpe told pharmacy minister Steve Brine last autumn that the appeal “must not interfere” with the upcoming negotiations, she said.
Rather than assessing the facts of the funding cuts, the “appeal is on a point of law only”, Ms Sharpe stressed. “It really mustn’t interfere with the work we've got to do on behalf of community pharmacy and with the work [the DH] needs to do in terms of making sure that they get the best out of the sector,” she added.
While “dialogue is much better this year than it was last year”, Ms Sharpe said “it is going to take a little while before [the DH] is ready to really start to discuss the way forward”.
“When my successor Simon [Dukes] arrives in May, we’ll probably be at a stage where we have some developments that he can work on,” she added.
In the meantime, “we are in discussion with [the DH] about some interim measures that need to be put in place for the drug tariff in April, as we start the new financial year”, she said.
Care-based services “at the core”
Ms Sharpe used her session at the conference to review how the pharmacy contract and the negotiator’s relationship with the DH has changed during her time at PSNC.
Previous attempts to introduce a service-led contract for community pharmacy had “stalled” because of the global recession and “lukewarm” uptake of locally commissioned services, she told delegates.
When asked by C+D what will prevent current proposals for a similar service-focused contract from stalling – especially given the trend of locally decommissioning pharmacy services across England – Ms Sharpe said the contract will need to have “care-based services at the core…not just optional extras that are locally commissioned”.
Pharmacy's work “this winter” – including its role in the NHS England 'Stay Well this Winter' campaign, and the fact community pharmacies in England have so far delivered over one million vaccinations as part of the 2017-18 flu service – should be proof for the DH of “how much they need pharmacy”, she added.