PSNC tells Government: No PQS or new services without more funding
The Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee has told Government and NHS officials that the pharmacy sector in England will not tolerate the roll out of any new or expanded services in 2023-24 without additional funding – including the “much anticipated” Pharmacy Contraception Service.
The PSNC announced late last night (March 13) that it had warned the Department of Health and Social Care and NHS England that they risk “presiding over the collapse” of the sector and of safe medicines supply, adding that the Pharmacy Quality Scheme “must not” be rolled out in the absence of new monies.
It added: “NHSE communications directing more patients to pharmacies also need to stop, and the DHSC should consider putting caps on existing Advanced Services to protect core dispensing funding.
“Without an urgent injection of extra funding there is not enough money to pay for the current services and dispensing being done by the sector; let alone for new things to be rolled out.”
The negotiator predicts that prescription items will rise by tens of millions each year, alongside an anticipated rise in walk-in patients that will see overall service demand approaching 300 per cent of 2015-16 levels by 2024-25.
The PSNC’s analysis also shows that Drug Tariff reimbursement in January this year amounted to half of contractors’ outgoings on medicines, using a large buying group as a sample.
Community pharmacies have “run out of money” and officials cannot expect additional work from pharmacies on a flat funding basis, said the PSNC, arguing that the focus should instead be “on supporting community pharmacies to meet the day-to-day needs of patients and on building on the advice that we already offer to the public via a fully-funded Pharmacy First scheme”.
PSNC chief executive Janet Morrison said: “I have today once again warned ministers about how desperate things have become. Many businesses are now operating at a loss, struggling with drug pricing, staffing, increasing public demand and staying open. We are struggling to keep our lights on and urgently need investment.
“And we have today told DHSC and NHSE that they must pause the rollout of new services, including the much-anticipated contraception service, and 2023/24 Pharmacy Quality Scheme.
“This isn’t because we don’t want these services – community pharmacies are incredibly ambitious about the services they could provide to their communities – but because we don’t believe pharmacy owners have the capacity under current conditions to properly undertake this work.”
The negotiator called on policymakers to “make good their commitments” to enabling efficiencies in the sector through regulatory easements. These include allowing pharmacies to: reduce opening hours by 30 per cent on a permanent basis; temporarily reduce hours by up to one day per week; engage in “unlimited” closed door working; and to refuse to dispense prescriptions where pressures could compromise professional standards, or where “there is no reimbursement for the individual contractor”.
The PSNC is also seeking a ban on any new distance selling pharmacy applications for two years, a guarantee that hub and spoke dispensing will only involve supply from NHS contract spokes, major Drug Tariff reforms and an end to pharmacies being required to check patients’ exemption from prescription fees.