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PSNC: Small pharmacy funding 'a mess'

PSNC chief executive Sue Sharpe wrote to NHS England about essential small pharmacies last Thursday

Negotiator is "really concerned" that NHS England area teams plan to phase out top-up funding for 'essential' pharmacies with low script volumes, says chief executive Sue Sharpe

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.


What do you think about the attitude of area teams to low volume pharmacies?

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Graham Phillips, Superintendent Pharmacist

PSNC says its a mess? Well yes, it is. How much of the mess can be laid at PSNC's door however? Have they done enough to protect these essential but small (in terms of prescription volume) pharmacies who, by definition, serve isolated and vulnerable communities. If the pharmacies close not a penny will be saved. Another pharmacy will dispense the scripts ( so no saving on fees) but the reduced access to pharmaceutical services will increase demands for already-overworked GPs and then spill over to AandE depts, neither of which have spare capacity and the cost of the same health transaction is twice as much in a GP surgery and FIVE times as much in AandE compared with a community pharmacy. Go figure!

I think the PSNC could be forgiven for having assumed (like many of us) that common sense would prevail and that NHS England's Area Teams, who should be fully aware of the negative impact on patients and the appalling cost implications of LPS closures, would have been more supportive of their local LPS contractors in at least continuing to fund them to the same extent as their top-up payments by way of development funding from March 31 until their new contract propsals are determined. Unfortunately recent experience shows this to be the exception rather than the rule.

John Randell, Non Pharmacist Branch Manager

and thats what we want from the psnc.....fighting our corner ..sue sharp...its GREAT to see...i hope this continues

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