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Officials still question value of pharmacies, says Simon Dukes even as PSNC ‘battle for the best deals’

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The Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) said it has “made a case” to pharmacy minister Jo Churchill for “an urgent uplift” in funding for community pharmacy.

It is seeking additional money to the agreed Community Pharmacy Contractual Framework (CPCF) funding “in recognition of the financial pressures facing community pharmacies and the critical and valuable work they are doing.”

The pharmacy negotiator said that it has written to the Department of Health and Social Care and minister Churchill, seeking “an urgent review” of the five-year national contract.

Whist PSNC still supports all elements of CPCF, including the roll out of the services set out within it, it says pharmacy service has changed so significantly over the past year that funding must be uplifted to keep pace with the developments.

It is using evidence of costs gathered from pharmacies to press for Covid-related costs incurred by contractors to be “covered in full” by government.

“Alongside these funding discussions, we want to work with HM Government on a shared vision for pharmacies in whatever our ‘new normal’ is,” PSNC said in a briefing note on Wednesday (Aug 27).

Details on winter’s flu jabs and other services

It noted that details of the 2020-21 flu vaccination service will be published by NHS England and NHS Improvement in time for the national roll-out on September 1, adding that talks with the government on the extension of referrals from GP practices to the Community Pharmacy Consultation Service (CPCS) have resumed.

“PSNC is pressing for all changes to be manageable for contractors,” it noted.

It added that details of the hepatitis C testing service, delayed at the start of the pandemic, are expected to be published imminently, while discharge medicines service, to support patients who have been discharged from hospital and had changes made to their medication, will be launched in January 2021.

Simon Dukes, the chief executive of PSNC lauded community pharmacy teams for doing an incredible job in meeting the increasing health needs of their patients and providing a walk-in clinical advice service for their local communities during the pandemic.

Financial toll on businesses

“But the financial toll that this tremendous effort has taken on pharmacy businesses of all shapes and sizes is now being felt, and PSNC’s job is to make that case effectively to HM Government.” he said in a statement.

“As contractors and LPCs know, during the initial pandemic peak in the UK, PSNC was working round the clock to finalise new services and arrangements that supported contractors through the lockdown period – emergency funding injections, flexibility in opening hours, and a new national delivery service were some of the key outputs from the negotiations at that time.

Comprehensive data on Covid-19 costs

“Now that the initial health emergency has passed, all PSNC Committee Members are focused on the financial emergency facing their businesses. PSNC, working with the other national community pharmacy bodies has put comprehensive data on pharmacies’ Covid-19 costs to the government and we are in discussion about how these should be covered, reconciling against the advance payments that have already been made to contractors.

“Even more critically we are also pushing for an uplift to the CPCF funding. This is alongside work arguing for increases in flu vaccination fees and negotiating the details of new CPCF services.

“None of these conversations are easy and all are complex and time-consuming.”

‘Officials still question the value of pharmacies’

He added that his team has been working hard to convince many officials who “still question the value of pharmacies,” although ministers have heaped praise on the sector throughout the pandemic.

“We are also increasingly working alongside our GP negotiating colleagues to share leverage where we can. I know that it is incredibly frustrating for contractors as they await the outcomes of these business critical conversations, but do not mistake a failure to make fast agreements for a lack of activity: we have been and will continue to do all that is needed to battle for the best deals and for fair treatment of community pharmacies at every stage.

“If that means rejecting offer after offer from the government and doing all that we can to reach a satisfactory position on every single negotiating point, then that is what we will keep doing.”

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