There’s no doubt that the upcoming 12% cut to pharmacy funding in England – announced by the Department of Health (DH) last month – is a major blow for the sector.
These changes, due to come into effect next month, will have a negative financial impact, especially for independent community pharmacies. So now is the time for independents to look ahead and focus on maximising profits that are within their control. Taking advantage of any extra revenue opportunities, such as the new Quality Payments Scheme (QPS), will make a difference and has to be a good starting point.
The QPS, which is to be introduced by the government in December, will see £75 million-worth of payments being made to pharmacies if they meet certain standards, such as regularly accessing patient records.
Pharmacies will be required to meet four criteria before being considered for the payments, including the provision of at least one specified advanced service and ongoing use of electronic prescriptions.
After that, funding will be made available to eligible pharmacies depending on how many “points” they can rack up. The QPS points system is weighted on an assessment of the difficulty of achieving each criterion, and while it isn’t set in stone, the DH expects each point to have a value of £64. With a maximum of 100 points per pharmacy to be earned, pharmacies could bolster their income by more than £6,000 per year.
Some independents may assume the requirements to meet the criteria are onerous, when in fact the reality is that many are already operating under these standards. Achieving healthy living pharmacy (HLP) status and training staff to become Dementia Friends for instance, are two areas that many Numark members already deliver.
The HLP model builds on the great work that many pharmacies already do. Additionally, accreditation can help independents secure further contracts for services. There are examples where new services have been promoted exclusively to HLP-accredited pharmacies, and there is also early evidence that tenders or bids from these pharmacies are looked on more favourably.
The QPS not only opens doors to prospective new services, but also gives independents the tools to deliver quality services and broaden their customer reach. While its potential success is still under question, there’s no denying that this underpins the government’s drive to put more of a focus on quality services in pharmacy. It also has the potential to provide some small relief from the cuts for independent pharmacies.
So, while there are most certainly challenging times ahead for the sector, we mustn’t miss the opportunities that are on the table. The old maxim “use it or lose it” will most probably apply in this case, if we don’t grab the QPS and make it ours.
It may be a small consolation to some who will be hit hard by the cuts, but maximising the financial support on offer could ease the pressure and also increase customer footfall in the long-term.
John D’Arcy is managing director of Numark