Funding for community pharmacy will continue at its current level until negotiations on a new community pharmacy contract are concluded, the government has said.
From April 2019, the “funding envelope” for community pharmacy will remain at £2.592bn, although pharmacies are set to benefit from an increase in Category M prices of £10m per month as the reduction announced in November 2018 — designed to clawback excess margin earned in previous years — will end.
The arrangements are part of an interim funding agreement between the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) and the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC), which was decided on in advance of discussions on the new pharmacy contract.
The single activity fee, which was lowered from £1.29 to £1.26 in November 2018, will remain at the new level, although the PSNC said this was still under discussion with the government and may be adjusted later in 2019.
Other elements of the interim funding arrangements are that pharmacy contractors will only be able to deliver up to 200 medicines use reviews in the first six months of 2019–2020 as this will form part of future contract negotiations; pharmacies eligible for Pharmacy Access Scheme payments will still receive them; and no further Quality Payments Scheme requirements or checkpoints have been set.
Talks on the new community pharmacy contract are now expected to begin by April 2019, according to the PSNC.
Simon Dukes, chief executive of the PSNC, said: “We are pleased that [the] DHSC and NHS England expect to be in a position to begin negotiations on community pharmacy shortly and we are looking forward to exploring with them developments that will ensure that community pharmacies can play a key part in the developing primary care systems for the benefit of patients.
“In the meantime, this interim funding arrangement will protect current funding levels for pharmacies and we welcome the £10m monthly increase in Category M prices.”
Pharmacy minister Steve Brine said he “looked forward” to discussing with the PSNC how the new community pharmacy contract could “support community pharmacy’s further integration into primary care networks and enable us to better utilise the skill set and reach of pharmacy teams”.