Early payments scheme for pharmacies to end, but pharmacies using online claims system will still be paid early

The Pharmacy Earlier Payments Scheme is to close, but community pharmacy contractors will be able to receive advance payments approximately 20 days early if they use the online claims system.

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) is to close the Pharmacy Earlier Payments Scheme (PEPS); however, from November 2021, all community pharmacy contractors in England will have the chance to receive early advance payments.

The PEPS scheme, which first launched in 2013, enabled contractors to access their monthly payment for providing NHS pharmaceutical services up to 60 days earlier than it would otherwise be available.

But its future had been “under consideration” by the DHSC since June 2021, when it was announced that the NHS was ending its contract with software supplier Taulia to provide the scheme.

A statement from the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC), published on 26 August 2021, said that from November 2021 advance payments will be made approximately 20 days earlier than the current payment timetable for community pharmacy contractors who make their monthly FP34C submissions through the NHSBusiness Services Authority’s (NHSBSA’s) Manage Your Service portal by the fifth of each month.

The release says that contractors who continue to use the paper submission document between November 2021 and March 2022, after which it will cease to be available, will not receive any earlier advance payments but will instead receive advance payments in accordance with the current payment timetable.

The PSNC said the agreement with the DHSC followed discussions on the PEPS, which the DHSC had decided to end following the collapse of financial services company Greensill Capital.

“The option for all community pharmacy contractors to bring forward the timing of their advance payments is a long overdue and very welcome development that will benefit all pharmacy businesses,” said Simon Dukes, chief executive of the PSNC.

“The agreement follows several months of discussions between PSNC and HM Government, and PSNC is pleased to have got a positive outcome for all contractors,” he said.

“I know that contractors using the PEPS have been anxious for news, and I hope [this] announcement offers them the reassurance that they need. DHSC have been adamant that the scheme must not continue, but to make this as manageable as possible we have negotiated an extended transition period alongside the shift in timings of the advance payments. This should significantly ease cashflow pressures on contractors currently using the PEPS.”

In July 2021, data obtained by The Pharmaceutical Journal through a freedom of information request to NHSBSA revealed that 2,170 pharmacies were signed up to the PEPS as of March 2021, with a total of £144.2 million paid out to participating contractors that month.

The March 2021 payment was the first to be sent directly from NHSBSA, rather than Greensill Capital, which financed the scheme from 2019 until its collapse during the same month. As a result of the collapse, the DHSC closed the scheme to new pharmacies.

The data also revealed significant growth in the number of pharmacies signed up to the scheme over the 2020/2021 financial year, from 1,606 pharmacies in April 2020 to 2,170 pharmacies in March 2021.

On average, throughout 2020/2021, each pharmacy claimed £63,452 in early payments per month.

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Citation
The Pharmaceutical Journal, PJ, August 2021, Vol 307, No 7952;307(7952)::DOI:10.1211/PJ.2021.1.102849