The situation faced by low script volume pharmacies trying to secure funding for their survival is "a mess”, PSNC has said.
C+D revealed last week that such pharmacies could face closure due to the phasing out of their support funding. Contractors operating under the Essential Small Pharmacies Local Pharmaceutical Services (ESPLPS) scheme told C+D that NHS England’s area teams were not prepared to support their pharmacies indefinitely once national funding ended in March – instead expecting the businesses to make themselves more profitable.
PSNC chief executive Sue Sharpe told C+D it was “really concerning” that some pharmacies were only being offered funding for “a couple of years”. “If you are in a small village you just don’t have the option to increase dispensing volume,” she said at the Sigma conference in India yesterday (February 16).
The commissioning body’s area teams can choose to extend the national top-up scheme – designed to support small businesses at least 1km from another pharmacy. But the approach taken by area teams so far was a “real disappointment”, said Ms Sharpe, who said she had written to NHS England about the issue on Thursday.
Ms Sharpe said PSNC had worked with NHS England to ensure its area teams received guidance on how to allocate funding, which advised them to consider local health inequalities and the pharmacy requirements of their population. But this guidance had “come late and was misunderstood”, Ms Sharpe said.
'Struggling' to get support
PSNC estimated that there were just under 100 pharmacies waiting to find out if their ESPLPS funding would continue beyond March, and Ms Sharpe said the negotiator was "struggling" to get area teams to support them. "It is a problem that is not going away but we reassure you we are still working on it," she told the conference.
Independent Pharmacy Federation (IPF) chair Fin McCaul told C+D that the organisation was “verging on devastated” that national funding for low volume pharmacies would end. Some IPF members who relied on the funding were “very frustrated” by the situation, he said.
“I can understand the frustrations of PSNC trying to negotiate with NHS England. I am hopeful that a solution can be found but it is going to be really difficult,” he added.