The Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee announced last week that it is in discussions with the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) and NHS England about relieving capacity pressures, such as a relaxation of pharmacy opening hours requirements.
PSNC is also scheduling webinars to talk with contactors about the steps they might be willing to take in future, to cut costs, should emergency financial relief fail to materialise.
The pharmacy regulator reported that many of its members felt that it was no longer tenable for pharmacies to keep offering all of the free and non-core services to patients that they would like to, and that all contractors should consider what steps they could take to try to safeguard their businesses and their core services for patients.
PSNC is also keen to talk to contractors about their current situation and the steps they might be willing to take in future, should emergency relief not be forthcoming.
Janet Morrison, PSNC CEO, said: “The pressures on community pharmacies have been unacceptable and unsustainable for many months, but we are now hearing more loudly and clearly than ever before that the situation is rapidly deteriorating. I believe we are approaching the cliff edge: if Government and the NHS do not take action soon, they could be facing very serious consequences in a matter of months.
“PSNC met last week for some very difficult conversations about the future. Together, we had an open and honest discussion about what contractors may have to consider in response to the fact that we can’t currently offer everything that were being asked to do within the current funding envelope. Nobody wants to see a reduction in the patient services that pharmacies can offer, but this is now the reality facing many businesses.
“Contractors will see us turning up the volume on our vital influencing work over the coming weeks, and alongside that we want to have some really honest and serious conversations with contractors. I very much hope that you will be able to join us one of our webinars to tell us more about the situation for your business and the steps you might be willing to consider taking to protect it in future, as well as to hear about how you can support our political and public campaigning work.”
‘Enough is enough’
National Pharmacy Association chair, Andrew Lane, said on Monday (December 5) that community pharmacies have been asked to do more and more for less and less for year and that demands made of the sector far outweighs its capacity to deliver.
“The sad truth is that many pharmacies have already been forced into taking difficult decisions about reducing access to services, to generate operational savings and make ends meet,” he said, adding: “Pharmacy teams have worked really hard to insulate patients from the effects of staff shortages, medicines shortages and immense financial pressures – but there comes a point when contractors have no choice other than to say enough is enough.
“The NPA’s own recently-commissioned report into the state of community pharmacy finances showed that the sector is in urgent need of fresh investment. Otherwise the service reductions we’ve seen up until now will be just the warning tremors of much worse to come.
“We need urgent intervention by government and the NHS in England to prevent cracks opening up in patient care and eventually growing into a chasm that fundamentally undermines the sector’s capacity to deliver NHS services effectively.
“It stands to reason that if the current financial envelope is too small to sustain current service levels, it cannot support new NHS developments like the much-trailed ‘pharmacy first’ scheme for common ailments. Let’s call time on the more for less funding formula which has blighted the sector for far too long.”
PSNC has organised online events for pharmacy teams where they can register to hear from and talk to Ms Morrison and members of its negotiating team on the evenings of Wednesday, December 7 and Wednesday, December 14, from 1930 to 2100hrs.