Simon Dukes, CEO, PSNC

The Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committe (PSNC) has secured a further £50 million of advance funding into community pharmacies at the end of May.

According PSNC, the NHS Business Services Authority has been working towards making the extra money available at the same time as the 1st June payment.

The latest commitment comes after the £300 million in advance payments already made to pharmacy contractors this year in recognition of COVID-19 related cashflow challenges, which was followed by a £15 million increase in medicine reimbursement prices in June.

“Our requests for cashflow assistance have once again led to a cash injection and, combined with the £15m increase in medicines prices in June, this should help to ease some of the immediate cashflow and procurement pressures on businesses,” PSNC Chief Executive Simon Dukes said in a statement this afternoon (May 28).

“In addition, our funding bid to cover the unprecedented costs that contractors are currently facing is now with HM Treasury, and while it is frustrating that these negotiations are taking some time, we are continuing to press for answers.

“We do not know how this pandemic will develop and the long-term effects it will have on pharmacy, but we will continue to gather evidence of contractors’ costs and other financial pressures and to press for margin adjustments and further financial assistance wherever we have a case to do so.”

PSNC said that it’s been seeking to prevent contractors from having to repay any of the advance payments they have received so far and that its negotiations with the government are still ongoing.

Responding to the annoucement of a £50 million advance payment for community pharmacy, Royal Pharmaceutical Society England Chair Claire Anderson said: “While this funding may help pharmacies stay open to provide vital services and healthcare advice to the public, it’s another stop-gap measure and should be coming from new money, rather than an advance payment.

“The Government should review this as part of a fair funding settlement for the longer-term.

“The ‘new normal’ for the NHS coping with COVID-19 will need a contract which makes the most of pharmacists’ clinical skills to support patients, improve medicines safety, and help people stay healthy and out of hospital.

“The NHS and Government now need to back pharmacy and build on the incredible work the profession during COVID-19 to support patient care.”

Reacting to the news, the National Pharmacy Association warned that this cash injection loads new debt onto pharmacies, many of which have little prospect of being able to pay it back.

“It is now more urgent than ever that the government fulfils commitments to repay all the extra costs incurred by pharmacies during the COVID-19 pandemic, said NPA chief executive, Mark Lyonette.

“Today’s announcement make talks on cost recovery even more urgent. We need assurances on the medium term position, because this new advance effectively increases the level of pharmacies’ debt to government. Many independent pharmacies will struggle to pay it back and should never be asked to do so.

“This advance will make it easier for our members to pay their bills, for now, and to keep vital services going. But it isn’t new money and doesn’t get to the root of the funding problems.

“Pharmacists are bearing a heavy financial burden in order to keep people safe and well. As caring health care professionals, pharmacists have kept their doors open, often at considerable personal cost. They have done this trusting that the Health Secretary will make good on his pledge to strain every sinew to support pharmacies.”

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