Contractors who wish to claw back up to £6,400 in quality payments per pharmacy had to complete a declaration by May 12. Under the scheme, pharmacies can receive payments for eight criteria, including achieving healthy living pharmacy accreditation and regularly accessing the summary care record.
But Kent LPC’s Michael Keen said the payments encourage pharmacists to “follow the money” rather than putting patients first.
“You used to be able to talk to a pharmacist, but the moment [quality payments] were announced, pharmacies battened down the hatches and thought of nothing else but getting the money,” he told health policy makers at an event last week (May 24).
Mr Keen said he is “not sure” placing “additional hurdles [for] pharmacies to mount in order to get paid” is “the right way of going”.
Impact of funding cuts
However, pharmacy has been left with little choice, Mr Keen claimed, as “what is not so often stated” is that community pharmacies are relying on the government’s funding schemes to stay afloat.
“If [pharmacies] do not deliver the ‘quality points’, and the Pharmacy Access Scheme money is not delivered,” it could lead to a “substantial reduction” of community pharmacies, Mr Keen warned.
“If someone took [around] 11% of your income away and asked you to do more for it, what do you expect the result to be?
“It is pretty clear what is happening to GPs [will happen to pharmacies] – we will see doors closing.”
High uptake for quality payments
According to the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC), more than 11,000 pharmacies in England completed a declaration for the first quality payment review period.
This means “the vast majority of the sector took on the challenge of meeting the various quality criteria”, the negotiator said on May 17.
“PSNC encouraged contractors and their teams to take part in the scheme, but we are delighted at the very high levels of participation,” said director of NHS services Alastair Buxton.