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The National Pharmacy Association (NPA) has called on the NHS England to uplift funding for pharmacy contractors to enable them to cover higher staffing costs along with a range of other cost-inflating factors.

This follows latest data released by the recruitment platform Locate a Locum, which showed a huge increase in locum rates for pharmacists in 2021 and predicted the trend to continue.

The report noted a 71 per cent surge in the cost of employing locum pharmacists in England, from the 2020 average to the second half of 2021.

Mark Lyonette
Mark Lyonette, CEO, National Pharmacy Association

NPA chief executive Mark Lyonette said: “There is a heavy reliance on locums in community pharmacy to maintain continuity of services with the average pharmacy operating 50 hours per week. Consequently, increases in locum rates have a big effect on the cost base.

“Pharmacies face a range of general cost pressures beyond locum rates, including much higher energy costs.  We hear a lot about the cost of living crisis; our members are facing a cost of doing business crisis and it’s every bit as real.

“The underlying underfunding, significant general inflationary pressures and specific cost increases relating to the locum workforce together make a powerful and urgent case for new funding.”

Locate a Locum tracked locum rates across the UK and the NPA is raising this matter with the negotiators in all four nations. The largest increase was seen in Scotland.

Besides latest data released by the technology platform, some other studies have also highlighted the funding gap in the sector.

In September 2020, Ernst & Young (EY) completed a study focusing on the funding, policy and economic environment for independent community pharmacy in England. This NPA-commissioned study predicted a deficit of £497 million in community pharmacy funding by 2024 and stated that the network was unsustainable under the current financial framework.

The study, which gathered a lot of reaction from the sector, predicted that up to 85 per cent of community pharmacies in England would be in financial deficit by 2024.

Based on data from 105 community pharmacies, it said that persistent deficits of this scale could result in businesses having insufficient cash to continue trading and a “contraction of the network”.

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