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Commissioning failing to improve, Pharmacy Show hears

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Commissioning failing to improve, Pharmacy Show hears

A Pharmacy Show audience heard how difficult it was for pharmacies to get commissioned for service delivery, with service income stuck at around 3 per cent of total remuneration.

The environment was not conducive to developing pharmacy services, said Peter Cattee, chief executive of PCT Healthcare, with his company’s service income the same as 10 years ago. But he praised the profession’s continued willingness to innovate. “Pharmacy is admirable in its positive approach to embracing new services. Our core skill is making things happen.”

Community pharmacy was the most cost effective, productive part of the NHS, said Mr Cattee during the panel session. “We’re the model for NHS behaviours of the future.” But increased mechanisation was coming and was closer than most people thought.

The Department of Health believes that the sector is “awash with cash”, said NPA chair Ian Strachan. “But I’m running at about 2 per cent profit at the moment, and that’s before the cuts. It’s about introducing change that takes the sector with you. It’s not just about a blanket attitude.”

Despite the current hard times, Mr Strachan said he was confident about the future. “The job of leaders is to be positive at times like this. The lobbying is more focused and more targeted. You can see we’re making more impact here because of the backtracking of the DH over cuts.”

The panel generally agreed that they were not considering withdrawing services if the government funding cuts went ahead. “We’re not thinking about stopping doing things, we’re putting patients first,” said chief executive of Well Pharmacy John Nuttall. “We need to acknowledge the value we’ve created, not withdraw services from patients.” He highlighted the national figures of 23 per cent of prescriptions delivered to the door and 250,000 patients receiving MDS to illustrate that value.

Rupert Newman, sales director at Celesio UK suggested innovating rather than withdrawing services. One such innovation would be pharmacies working together to avoid duplicating delivery routes.

Deliveries were currently funded from the generic margin, said Mr Cattee, who questioned whether that link could ever be unpicked. “There’s a danger that things could start to unravel as the generic margin and remuneration model changes.” Mr Cattee’s business was receiving 20 per cent less remuneration for dispensing 40 per cent more prescriptions than 10 years ago, he said.

Locally commissioned services were going “absolutely nowhere” said Andrew McCoig, chief executive of Croydon LPC, as part of a question from the floor. “They can’t afford us and they’ve been paying us at rates set 15 years ago. Enough is enough. The lunatics have the keys to the asylum. We will lose our dignity if we get swallowed up in what I can only call conversations, not negotiations.”

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