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Pharmacy bodies disappointed with launch date of Pharmacy Contraception Service

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National pharmacy bodies have expressed their disappointment on the launch date for Tier 1 of the Pharmacy Contraception Service which has been announced by NHS England (NHSE) as ’24th April 2023′.

Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) said that this start date for the service has not been agreed with PSNC and is in direct contradiction of our warning to Ministers that no new or expanded services can be rolled out in 2023/24 unless extra funding is put into community pharmacies.

Responding to this announcement, PSNC Chief Executive Janet Morrison said: “This is despite our warning last month that without additional funding, the roll-out of Year 5 additional services and the Pharmacy Quality Scheme is neither feasible nor affordable. Community pharmacies are having to work harder and harder for less money and many are at breaking point. And just this week the results of our 2023 Pharmacy Pressures Survey have confirmed the worsening situation.

Clearly our view is not because contractors don’t see the benefit of the service. This is a much-anticipated service that could deliver real benefits to patients and community pharmacies are always eager to support public health initiatives. But capacity in the sector is now so stretched that more money is needed to safely resource additional work.

We have repeated our concerns to the Department in recent days and reminded them of the potential for a properly funded community pharmacy sector to play a greater role in providing clinical solutions and relieving pressures elsewhere in primary care.”

Dr Leyla Hannbeck CEO of AIMp also expressed her disappointment on the announcement as the sector is “barely able to keep its ahead above the water and with our workforce being exhausted we are being asked to deliver more services without any additional funding or resource.”

She stressed: “It is also clear that the current PSNC approach is not working and it requires change. It must also be understood very clearly by both DH and PSNC that whether negotiated or imposed pharmacies need time to understand, plan and integrate new services into the very busy, business as usual days”.

“Our members have always been keen and proactive to deliver pharmacy services, but the current model where pharmacies are asked to do more for less, and services coming from the same global sum is unsustainable and cannot continue.”

A CCA spokesperson said: “Community pharmacy has a huge potential to meet the contraceptive needs of women, increasing access and creating much needed capacity across primary care. We have previously highlighted the potential to transfer at least 2 million GP appointments a year to community pharmacy.

Pushing through the rollout of this service, despite the warnings of the negotiator, representative bodies, and contractors shows a worrying disregard for the reality within the community pharmacy sector. The existing contractual agreement was finalised before the pandemic, rampant inflation, ever growing workloads, and continuing pressures on businesses.  Whilst many pharmacies will no-doubt do their best to meet patient needs, the funding of community pharmacy is broken and needs to fundamentally change.

With ambitious commissioning, joint implementation with the sector, and the critical new investment needed, community pharmacy could make a huge impact on women’s contraceptive care. Pharmacy has a history of delivering at scale, and at speed. But the sector cannot continue on goodwill alone.”

NPA Vice-Chair, Nick Kaye: “Pharmacies are convenient and non-stigmatising places to access sexual and reproductive health services.

“Permitting the repeat supply of oral contraception through pharmacies will increase choice and improve access.

“However, the chances of a successful national rollout of the oral contraception service are much reduced by a decade of chronic underfunding which has brought pharmacies across England to crisis point.

“Rather than implementing new NHS services, pharmacy owners are being forced to apply most of their energy to keeping their business afloat.”

Nevertheless, recognising that some pharmacies will want to engage with this service as soon as possible, the NPA has already produced information and resources for its members.”

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