Negotiations on a new community pharmacy contract have yet to begin, and there is no timetable for them to start, MPs have heard.
The All-Party Pharmacy Group (APPG) was told that there were not even any terms of reference drawn up for the talks, despite a letter sent to the APPG by pharmacy minister Steve Brine earlier in 2018, which confirmed that negotiations would begin on moving from a contract that rewards the dispensing of higher volumes of medicines to one that rewards care provided for patients.
Asked at an APPG hearing into the community pharmacy care plan service, held at the House of Commons on 14 May 2018, whether the contract negotiations were about to start, Gary Warner, who was representing the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC), said no. Asked if there were any terms of reference for negotiations, he again said no.
Kevin Barron, chair of the APPG said that although he had no specific knowledge on any mechanism for the negotiations: “One side of the table has to ‘look up’ before they can start negotiating properly, and maybe those discussions are currently taking place. It is not just the Department of Health involved — there are others involved as well. It might be the Treasury.
“The old contract we have now is not fit for purpose; we need to move to something service-based as soon as we can, but what is important is that we get it right.”
Asked later by Barron what one question he would like to ask Brine if the APPG met with the minister, Warner said he would want to point out to the minster that given the wealth of evidence that community pharmacy can improve patient health and improve access to NHS services “what’s stopping you?”.
Malcolm Harrison, chief executive of the Company Chemists’ Association, told the APPG he would say to Brine that his members were asked to gather evidence on how community pharmacy can help to manage long-term care, which they did with the Community Pharmacy Future Pharmacy Care Plan service.
“The evidence is out there, why aren’t we acting on it?”, he said.