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Fighting to get free from funding 'straitjacket'

Contractors came in for unfair criticism at the LPC conference, writes James Waldron, as they were accused of not pulling their weight on services and so hindering funding negotiations

C+D reporter James Waldron reports from the LPC conference on November 5.


Each year, the LPC conference offers a valuable opportunity for pharmacy representatives to compare notes on how the sector is faring. In the first conference since April's NHS reforms, it was fascinating to hear how LPCs were coping with the complex commissioning system.

The answers varied, with some great examples of enthusiastic and open-minded commissioners giving pharmacists the opportunity to deliver innovative services. However, these accounts were matched by stories of miserly GPs clinging onto their budgets and it seemed that contractors' ability to secure services was often a postcode lottery. Presenting a strong business case to commissioners sounded like one way for contractors to improve their chances.  

PSNC chief executive Sue Sharpe was outspoken in her belief that pharmacy must maintain the credibility of its services at all costs. But she also took an unfair swipe at contractors she said were not pulling their weight. Apathy among some pharmacists was dragging average MUR levels down, making it harder for the negotiating body to promote pharmacy as a service provider, she claimed.

Without an in-built funding commitment for pharmacy services, it's understandable that ambitious LPCs remain frustrated with the contract's supply focus


Her criticism seemed harsh when LPCs are repeatedly calling for a new contract that rewards services. The funding model was a "straitjacket", complained one contractor. But, again, Ms Sharpe offered no clues about when the ongoing negotiations would be wrapped up. Without an in-built funding commitment for pharmacy services, it's understandable that ambitious LPCs remain frustrated with the contract's supply focus.

For the time being, while we wait to hear how the contract is going to develop, it seems contractors will remain chained to the dispensary.

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