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DHSC faces backlash from CPE over ‘untested’ Drug Tariff changes

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CPE warns that imposing additional pressure on pharmacies to dispense at a loss will result in serious consequences for the sector, patients and the wider primary care system

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) is pushing ahead with its plans to implement a new drug tariff from April 2024. However, this move has sparked strong opposition from Community Pharmacy England (CPE), raising concerns about its potential impact on pharmacies and patients.

Earlier, it was announced that the April drug tariff will include the new ‘Retrospective top-up payment for Concessionary prices, which will be applied automatically for the products listed in Part VIIIE each quarter by the NHS Business Services Authority (NHSBSA), according to the volume the contractor was paid for.

However, CPE argued that the government has imposed these “untested” changes without their agreement, and strongly opposed them stating that “no recovery or downward pressure on margin is acceptable given the financial fragility of community pharmacies.”

Janet Morrison, chief executive of CPE, has voiced strong opposition to these changes, arguing that “any system expecting pharmacies to dispense at a loss” jeopardises the sector’s financial stability and compromises patient care.

“This is yet another example of tinkering at the edges while inadequate pharmacy funding arrangements leave pharmacies struggling to stay open, and puts the safe supply of medicines at risk,” she added.

This CPE is calling for an urgent review of medicines supply and margin systems to safeguard patient safety and ensure the economic sustainability of pharmacies.

Meanwhile, community pharmacy businesses are being informed that fee levels will remain unchanged, and existing service arrangements will continue as previously announced until the negotiations on 2024/25 funding are completed.

Morrison noted that community pharmacies are operating in crisis mode due to the current pharmacy funding levels, which are driving them out of business.

Therefore, the CPE is advocating for improvements to funding and the medicines supply chain, as well as leveraging the wide stakeholder support that sector currently has.

 

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