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Hancock refuses to update pharmacy on Covid costs


Hancock refuses to update pharmacy on Covid costs

By Neil Trainis


The health secretary Matt Hancock last night refused to update community pharmacies on how talks over the reimbursement of their Covid costs are progessing.

During a Sigma Pharmaceuticals’ webinar exploring the future political landscape community pharmacy will find itself in once the Health and Care Bill becomes legislation, Mr Hancock (pictured) was asked by the event’s chair and Conservative MP Steve Brine to reveal what progress has been made.

Pharmacies have played a crucial role during the pandemic and are continuing to deliver Covid vaccines but have still not recovered the costs they have laid out over the last 15 months despite ensuring patients, including vulnerable people, have received medicines and advice.

In March PSNC chief executive Simon Dukes said the pharmacy sector's costs in England had exceeded £400 million and was rising.

“I thought this might come up and I know that the costs were paid for but there hasn’t been that reimbursement. It’s something that I’m working on but I apologise, I’m not able to say any more on this," Mr Hancock said. 

He also heard during the webinar that GPs have not made best use of the Community Pharmacist Consultation Service and have been sending patients into pharmacies without using the proper referral system. That has meant pharmacies have not been paid for those referrals.

“There is capacity, they want to do it, they are clinically trained and they are in a position to help but sometimes there is a feeling in practice out in primary care system that they are not being used properly and they are not being reimbursed for it and the legislation is an opportunity for that,” Mr Brine said.

Mr Hancock said he did not have “an assessment of how serious” the situation is.

“I’d like to hear on that and also proposed solutions, how do we solve this? It’s a bit like the wider package of proposals coming forward from you on behalf of the sector on how we can get pharmacy to do more,” he said.

“On the point about the funding, obviously we’ve got to address that but let’s make sure that we have discussions around that. There is a bright future here of more activity better supported.

“We’re always going to push for money, of course we are, but I think the opportunity here is of innovative policy to get the most out of what can be done and that’s the win-win that we’ve got to keep our eyes on.”

Mr Hancock also tried to alleviate concerns about community pharmacies' ability to have an input in integrated care systems and how legislation under the Bill is framed by insisting it was “developed in a highly consultative, consensus-based approach.”

Under the plans, integrated care systems will link commissioners and providers of NHS services with local authorities and other stakeholders in local areas, with an emphasis on joining together community, hospital, mental health and social care services. 

“It’ll go through parliament where no doubt it will get a lot of detailed scrutiny,” Mr Hancock said.

“These are not a set of reforms that have been dropped from on high from the secretary of state’s office. On the contrary, they come from the NHS and they have been refined through engagement and consultation.”

(Image: UK Parliament. Image was cropped.)

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