The All Party Pharmacy Group (APPG) says the government and Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) must reach a settlement on the community pharmacy contractual framework, warning that an imposed contract could hamper the development of the sector.
The APPG recommendation is part of a report on its inquiry into primary and community care, launched in October 2015, which set out to understand the role of community pharmacy within the NHS Five Year Forward View.
Sir Kevin Barron, chair of the APPG, says: “Our inquiry found that there is a gulf between government and community pharmacy on their plans for the sector. Both sides, ultimately, want better care for patients. That is best achieved by agreeing a common way forward, saving us from an acrimonious contract imposition.”
The report sets out recommendations for the future of community pharmacy, but the APPG cautions that without agreement from the government, as well as an unclear picture of future funding, pharmacies may be held back from making progress.
“We know as long as uncertainty hangs over the sector, we’ll see less investment in patient care. Only if both sides strike a deal can we avoid the dangerous distraction of contract imposition,” Barron adds.
The report advocates a clinically focused community pharmacy service that can help relieve pressure on hospital emergency departments and GP practices. It includes several recommendations for how this can be achieved, including a focus on investment in technology, developing professionalism and integrating pharmacy into primary care.
It says that dispensing is still the core service of community pharmacy, but should be harnessed more frequently as an opportunity for other health interventions. The report says that progress to this end has been too slow and the funding model for community pharmacy needs to incentivise service delivery rather than dispensing. It says the proposals put forward by the Department of Health in December 2015 to introduce a single activity fee for each prescription does the opposite.
The report also calls on the government to address concerns that funding cuts will result in pharmacy closures.
The PSNC has also submitted a set of counterproposals to the Department of Health and NHS England, which it says would achieve the government’s intended savings without cutting community pharmacy services. The APPG says that these deserve a detailed response.