Simon Dukes

Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee chief executive Simon Dukes has assured that all pharmacy contractors will receive payments for their Covid-related costs early next month with the “overwhelming majority” getting paid in full.

“At the start of October, we expect that every single contractor will receive a payment from NHS BSA (NHS Business Services Authority)” with almost 95 per cent of them receiving their claims in full, Dukes said during the LPC Conference 2021 on Thursday, September 16.

“It will provide a much needed financial certainty for the vast majority of contractors,” he added. Very small number of contractors, around five per cent, whose claims form an outlier, will be contacted by the NHSBSA before the payment is released.

He reiterated that the total Covid-related claims far exceeded the original government cap of £120 million, and stressed that the negotiator was working out final details of the payment with concerned departments.

In June, the PSNC announced that contractors would have until August 15 to make claims for the pandemic related costs they incurred between March 2020 and March 2021.

Meanwhile, the sector has to pay back the £370m advance funding given to recognise contractors’ cashflow pressures during the pandemic.

He added that PSNC would soon make a formal announcement on this.

Pharmacy role

Lauding the role pharmacies played during the pandemic, Dukes said: “Our sector played a huge part in helping to prop up primary care through the NHS in the most difficult period.”

And, there is much more the sector needs to do over the coming weeks and months, he added.

“We heard the first signals from the minister that the NHS is expected to have another difficult winter. The chief medical officer reminded us of how, how quickly the situation worsened. And politicians once again spoke of the need to avoid overwhelming the NHS.

“(It) goes without saying Covid challenges will continue to impact on community pharmacies, testing the resilience of businesses, both financially and operation. We will need to maintain our focus on helping them (NHS) to manage the day job.”

Prime minister Boris Johnson on Tuesday (September 14), revealed the government’s plan to manage Covid throughout autumn and winter, which includes offering booster jabs to millions.

Besides the Covid management plan, community pharmacies will also have a pivotal role to play in the new national contractual framework services that are due to rollout this financial year including the long awaited expansion of new medicine service (NMS).

The NMS expansion along with the catch up facility will allow 1000s more people to benefit from a pharmacist advice, he said.

Dukes added that pharmacists can play a significant role in the smoking cessation and the community pharmacist consultation service. Both the services put pharmacies at the heart of the local NHS systems.

“I believe both will be critical to making future business cases about the value of the sector to government. Hospitals and GPs, once they start using the services properly, will not be able to afford to lose.”

Besides, referrals are expected to increase with the rollout of these services.

Hypertension case-finding service is another key achievement of the PSNC’s negotiations. Many contractors would want to offer this and make a significant contribution to the nation’s health, Dukes said.

He added: “In short, it will add yet another item to the list of reasons why the NHS simply cannot cope without this sector.”

“And to have all of this rolled out alongside coping with the incredible pressures of the pandemic is nothing short of spectacular.”

“I hope that this transformation starts to give pharmacy the leverage it needs to enter future negotiations.”

Future negotiations

Reiterating his frustration with the government’s intransigence over uplifting the Community Pharmacy Contractual Framework (CPCF) funding Dukes said the future negotiations won’t be easy.

The negotiator’s proposal to increase funding for the sector was “flatly rejected by Treasury”, keeping the allocation unchanged at £2.592 billion for the year 2021/22.

He noted that the demand to increase sector’s funding coincided with the government discussions ahead of the upcoming budget.

He added: “We are not going to enter future negotiations until we have conducted the annual review. The annual review was stated very clearly in the initial CPCF document in 2019.”

For the next year CPCF negotiations, a lot of focus will be on rise in salaries, increase in national insurance, inflation along with capacity building initiatives for pharmacies.

He further cautioned about the changes that the new Health and Care Bill could bring.

“The new systems and structures will alter the local landscape and could quite radically change the way in which local services have permission.”

PSNC has called for a fair representation of pharmacy and other primary care providers in new health and care systems.

The Health and Care Bill that is currently being considered in parliament would shift the responsibility for managing contracts for primary NHS services to new Integrated Care boards (ICBs).

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