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‘We have new evidence to take into pharmacy contract negotiations’

"The current system leaves too many pharmacies struggling to balance the books"

Research published today could help usher in a pharmacy contract that unlocks the sector's potential, argues Phoenix UK’s Steve Anderson

Last week, there was some mixed news for community pharmacy in England. The announcement by the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) that fees and allowances will remain at current levels for the foreseeable future – until negotiations on a new contract begin – will disappoint many.

The current system does not deliver fair and sustainable funding, leaving too many pharmacies struggling to balance the books. It doesn’t reflect the changes taking place in the way NHS England intends to provide healthcare in the future, and it limits the ability of community pharmacy to lift some of the patient burden from A&E and GPs. More than that, it doesn’t allow us to be as flexible and innovative as we want to – and need to – be to provide the services and support we know patients want from their local pharmacy.

As a result, we have a pharmacy contract that does not work for contractors, the NHS, or patients.

Disappointing though this news may be, it is perhaps not surprising. The new PSNC CEO doesn’t get his feet formally under the desk until May, and if a new service-based contract is to be negotiated – and I hope it will – that will take a lot of time and considerable effort.

In the meantime, the Department of Health and Social Care could show some good faith by quickly agreeing changes to the system for setting price concessions. That would at least be one less financial worry for community pharmacy.

On the good news front, the Community Pharmacy Future group – made up of Boots, Lloydspharmacy, Rowlands and Well – and academics from the University of East Anglia, have published new research which demonstrates how community pharmacy can support patients with long-term conditions, to improve their quality of life and provide cost-effective solutions for the NHS.

The group successfully delivered a new patient care plan (PCP) service to a number of patients in West Yorkshire, with impressive results:

  • 93% of patients who attended the first appointment agreed one or more health goals with the pharmacist
  • 39% of patients who set goals achieved one or more
  • significant improvement was seen in patient activation scores, systolic and diastolic blood pressure, adherence and quality of life
  • it identified that PCPs can reduce healthcare costs by up to 21%.

It is another piece of important evidence to take to politicians and policy makers and say: "support us to unlock our potential and we can deliver improved patient outcomes at a lower cost to the NHS."

Reports such as this reinforce the evidence for a service-based contract and provide PSNC and others with the ammunition they need in the negotiations which lie ahead.

Steve Anderson is group managing director of Phoenix Healthcare Distribution Ltd in the UK, part of the Phoenix group of companies, which includes Rowlands Pharmacy

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