We must listen to contractors and take them seriously, says CPhO
By Neil Trainis
Chief pharmaceutical officer David Webb conceded during the Pharmacy Show yesterday that NHS England and the government need to listen to pharmacists about their struggles to make ends meet and take their concerns about funding “very seriously".
In front of a packed theatre at the NEC in Birmingham, Webb was told by an independent contractor that she was struggling to offer extra clinical services on top of what her team already provides because the funding is not in place to allow her to take on more staff.
“I’m just thinking that when I go in tomorrow, all these clinical services that we would love to offer, at the end of the day, getting a technician or getting extra staff to free my time to offer all these wonderful clinical services, will my pharmacy be able to cover it?” she asked.
The Government recently refused to inject fresh funding into community pharmacy’s global sum following talks with the PSNC on years four and five of the contractual framework, although a one-off £100m excess margin write-off for contractors and extension of the transitional payment was agreed.
Trying to reassure the contractor that the issues she raised were “really important,” Mr Webb said: “It’s important that we listen properly to what you’re saying about the intersection between cashflow and the availability of staff to enable you to do what you want to do.
“In recognition of some of the challenges you’re facing, we made an investment into the next couple of years of the agreement of the contractual framework but my key learning from this is that we need to be listening to people like you telling us how it is and taking that very seriously because a sustainable future is in everybody’s interest.
“I take account of what you’re saying about the additional staff to enable you to get to where you want to get to. I think what we need to do is make sure the next stage is designed with all those considerations and that you have the flexibility to do all the things that you want to do and the certainty that you’ll be able to do those things.”
Mr Webb was also asked if he had seen a recent report by professor David Taylor from University College London School of Pharmacy and Panos Kanavos from the London School of Economics and Political Science which warned thousands of pharmacies could close because of inflationary pressures and frozen funding, leading to greater pressure on the wider NHS and a poorer quality of life for millions of people. The report was commissioned by the National Pharmacy Association.
Following publication of the report, professor Taylor warned the NHS could end up providing a “depersonalised, dehumanised service” for patients in the long-term if more pharmacies were forced to close.
Insisting he had seen the report, Mr Webb said: “I think there are two journeys we have to travel together on at the moment. One is about establishing a clinical vision and a destination for pharmacy practice.
“The second part is the business component of that; what is it that sustains community pharmacy going forward and I think both are equally important as we move forward.”
He said those two “journeys” were the reason NHSE decided to commission an independent economic analysis of NHS pharmaceutical services using data from contractors which would inform future talks on the community pharmacy contractual framework.