The Department of Health (DH) estimates its pharmacy access scheme – first proposed to ensure “geographically important” pharmacies are not forced to shut their doors as a result of a cut to the sector's funding – will only support 1,380 of the 11,674 in England, according to a leaked government document seen by C+D.
The document – obtained by Labour MP Michael Dugher and shared with C+D yesterday (October 16) – states that the scheme would cost a total of £12 million in 2016-17 and £27m in 2017-18.
It details two categories of eligibility for pharmacies to qualify for the funding. Pharmacies located a mile or more from another pharmacy will be "automatically eligible", while a "handful" will also receive the funding if "population mapping" shows they are needed to provide care to a "high-need" patient group, according to the document.
The top 25% of pharmacies – based on dispensing volume – will be automatically excluded, as those with “greatest potential to remain viable” should not receive support, the DH stressed in the document.
It estimates that the average payment per pharmacy from the funding will be £8,500 in 2016-17 and £19,500 in 2017-18.
In January, the DH announced plans to "phase out" the current system of establishment payments completely "over a number of years".
Efficiencies needed by all
According to the document, even pharmacies that are eligible for the fund will have to make efficiencies.
While the top-up payment is designed to bring the funding of eligible pharmacies back up to 2015-16 levels, they will still be required to make a 3% efficiency saving.
The DH said in the document that it “is keen” to discuss the proposals in further detail and called for the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee's (PSNC) input.
Last week (October 13), PSNC outlined its 16 objections to the pharmacy access scheme in a letter to the DH's head of pharmacy Jeannette Howe. The following day, the negotiator rejected the government’s plans to slash the sector's funding by 12% from December.
The DH declined to comment on the leaked document.