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Uncertainty persists over progress of NHSE pharmacy review


Uncertainty persists over progress of NHSE pharmacy review

By Neil Trainis

Community Pharmacy England appears to have no idea how far NHS England has got producing an economic analysis of pharmaceutical services which it promised to commission a year ago to help inform future community pharmacy contract negotiations.  

There has been a degree of anxiety within community pharmacy about a lack of information on what progress has been made, when the review is likely to be published and whether it has started at all, given the current five-year pharmacy contract will end next year.

CPE told Independent Community Pharmacist talks on the next community pharmacy contractual framework, which are yet to start, will focus on a one-year deal rather than another multi-year arrangement and there is a feeling within the sector that the review must be completed as soon as possible. CPE said it expects negotiations on the CPCF for 2024-25 to start sometime this autumn.

Contractors were told about the economic analysis in a communication sent to them by NHSE and the Department of Health and Social Care in September 2022 but one contractor told ICP they were concerned NHSE had failed to provide an update on where the review has got to.

The analysis, which will be conducted by an independent supplier and based on data from pharmacy contractors across the country, will try to understand their financial situation. In January this year, NHSE began looking for an independent supplier to conduct the "comprehensive" analysis relating to "pharmacy contractor models of various sizes.”

When ICP asked CPE if it knew how far the review had got and if it had any idea when its findings will be published, it said they were questions for NHSE. When those questions were put to NHSE as well as who it had commissioned to carry out the analysis, it did not respond.

CPE: It's critical the process is done properly

CPE has pressed NHSE to ensure the work is carried out promptly and properly but a source told ICP that progress was being delayed because of CPE’s insistence that it approves the report before its release.

Its chief executive Janet Morrison said although NHSE needed to “conclude this work quickly,” it was “critical given the potentially far-reaching consequences of this work that the process is also done properly.”

“The economic analysis being commissioned by NHS England must give a fair and accurate picture of the extremely challenging economic position that all pharmacies find themselves in,” she said.

“This is essential to underpin any future negotiations and to inform future policy. The work will require significant input of sensitive commercial data from community pharmacy so it’s very important to establish the methodology for how that is used and interpreted.

“We have been inputting into NHS England’s tender process to try to ensure that all of this happens and these have been challenging discussions.”

The prospect of a general election in 2024 or 2025 means the government is unwilling to open talks about a multi-year contract.

“We expect this to be a single-year negotiation as all government funding commitments need to align with the cross-government spending review period which has one more year to run,” Morrison said.

“Any future multi-year deals would come with pros and cons which the pharmacy owners on Community Pharmacy England would weigh up very carefully.

“It has always been the case that general elections and possible changes in government bring with them uncertainty: politics always has been and always will be a part of the equation, and this is why we have been significantly increasing our political influencing work in the past year and are talking to all three of the main political parties about the future for community pharmacy.”

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