- Department of Health has "made it clear" that proposed £170 million cut to global sum in England will go ahead regardless of a promised consultation, PSNC says
- Government has no plans to develop any pharmacy services in 2016-17, according to negotiating body
- Funding cuts will damage "confidence and stability" of sector and force contractors to reduce staffing levels
The government could hit community pharmacies in England with a "far larger" funding cut next year, the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) has warned.
The Department of Health (DH) said last month that its £170 million cut to pharmacy funding – scheduled for October – would be subject to a consultation involving PSNC and other pharmacy bodies, but PSNC chief executive Sue Sharpe said the government has "made it clear" that the proposed cut will go ahead regardless of the results of the consultation.
The government's intention is to reduce the number of pharmacies with low dispensing volumes, Ms Sharpe said in a letter to DH and NHS England representatives last Friday (January 15).
Despite continued calls from pharmacy representatives for a national minor ailments service, the DH has "no plans" to consider any new pharmacy services in 2016-17, Ms Sharpe said.
DH "withholding" information
Ms Sharpe accused the DH of "withholding material" from PSNC, after it failed to provide the negotiating body with details of its plans for pharmacy funding beyond 2016-17.
"We cannot agree to commence negotiations [on the global sum] before we have had an opportunity to fully understand your plans," she told the DH.
"It seems clear that you are proposing to radically change the market with a real paucity of knowledge essential for good decision making," she added.
Ms Sharpe said the "extraordinary" funding cut will force contractors to reduce staff – echoing the results of a C+D poll last week.
In her letter, addressed to chief pharmaceutical officer for England Keith Ridge and a DH director, Ms Sharpe accused the DH of having an "ill-informed policy driven by an equally ill-informed view that there is surplus funding [in pharmacy]".
"[Your] professed ambition to develop a more clinically-focused community pharmacy service is entirely incompatible with the cut in funding of £170m. We will not accept this," she said.
Future funding streams
Ms Sharpe also took aim at the Pharmacy Integration Fund, announced by the DH in December as a way of "transforming how community pharmacy will operate in the NHS". The fund is expected to support pharmacists to work more closely with GP practices, care homes, and urgent care settings, the DH said at the time.
Ms Sharpe said the fund will only amount to £20m in 2016-17, and will not be limited to community pharmacy.
"Given the current drive to develop the role of pharmacists working in general practice, we expect that this [money] will be overwhelmingly directed towards...those other than community pharmacies," she said.
More news on the funding cuts...