Speaking at a parliamentary Public Accounts Committee oral evidence session last week (September 14), Mr Stevens responded to a question from Labour MP Karin Smyth about pharmacy minister David Mowat's announcement that details of a planned cut to pharmacy funding would be delayed.
Ms Smyth, MP for Bristol South, said: "There has been a reprieve or a delay for cuts that were in the forward budgets for next year. Community pharmacy, we read, has been saved."
After first announcing that the planned 6% cut to pharmacy funding in England is to be delayed beyond October, the Department of Health wrote to pharmacy organisations last week (September 14) to inform them that a funding "package" for the sector will be announced in mid-October – and implemented in December.
Ms Smyth said the delay to the funding decision does not give confidence that there is an "overall plan [for the health service] that people are sticking to".
Mr Stevens denied Ms Smyth's suggestion that a delay to the £170 million cut to funding amounted to a "raid" by the Department of Health on the NHS. But the delay in implementing the cut is a “further budget pressure”, which he is “having to manage”, he said.
Community pharmacy is “hugely valuable”, but there are “legitimate considerations” that the NHS is spending “something like £2.8 billion” in order to “dole out £8 billion-worth of medicines”, Mr Stevens claimed.
"There are efficiencies to be made in every part of our cost structure," he said.
"In order to deliver against the funding that we have, we are going to have to be resolute on some often quite controversial decisions," Mr Stevens added.
Royal Pharmaceutical Society fellow and former president Steve Churton told C+D that he hopes Mr Stevens' comments do not reflect that NHS England “fundamentally misunderstands the role and value of community pharmacy”.
Referring specifically to Mr Steven's comment about pharmacists "doling out" medicines, Mr Churton said it "does not bode well".