The Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) says community pharmacists will need widespread support from pharmacy organisations after health minister David Mowat announced community pharmacy funding cuts will be implemented from 1 December 2016.
Speaking at the House of Commons on 20 October 2016, Mowat confirmed that funding for community pharmacy will be cut by 4% in 2016–2017 from 1 December 2016, and a further 3.4% will be slashed in 2017–2018.
Mowat’s announcement concludes months of discussions between government and pharmacy organisations, including: the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee, the negotiating body for community pharmacy contractors in England; Pharmacy Voice, a trade association which represents community pharmacy in England; and the RPS.
“The profession has spoken with one voice on this issue,” says the RPS in a statement, published on 20 October 2016. “We have consistently asked how the government’s aspiration for the future of community pharmacy to be at the heart of the NHS can be squared with large reductions in funding.
“We recognise the NHS is under huge financial pressure, with colleagues in public health and hospitals at the sharp end of squeezed budgets too. There is a broader case for all of us in health to make about investment in a service that is dealing with unprecedented demand and expectations.”
The RPS also expressed dismay that the pharmacy integration fund (PhIF), which aims to support the development and integration of clinical pharmacy practice in a wide range of primary care settings, has been reduced from £300m over five years to £42m over two years.
“We are committed to working with NHS England on the best use of this fund but are dismayed that there is now less certainly (sic) about the long-term status of this work,” the statement says.
In his speech, Mowat also described plans for a pharmacy access scheme, whereby additional funding will be made available for the 1,356 pharmacies in deprived areas across England to shield them from the impact of the cuts. However, the RPS says that it will take time to find out whether the scheme will lessen the impact on opening hours and staffing levels in these pharmacies.
“We know that many pharmacists, whether they own a pharmacy or work for a pharmacy business, will be hugely concerned about the future,” says the RPS. “We have been very clear about our opposition to funding reductions, but we know that the profession needs more from us at this time.
“[We] will make sure we offer pharmacists practical support to plan for the change that will begin on 1 December 2016.”