More than 1,300 pharmacies will receive additional payments to protect against the full effects of community pharmacy funding cuts in England. The additional payments will come from the total funding package being offered to the sector.
A total of 1,356 pharmacies have been identified as in an area where community pharmacy provision is sparse, according to a list published by the Department of Health (DH). The pharmacies listed meet three criteria: they are more than a mile away from another pharmacy by road; were on the pharmaceutical list on 1 September 2016; and are not high volume dispensing pharmacies (i.e. they are not dispensing 109,012 prescription items per year or more).
The named pharmacies will receive monthly payments under a pharmacy access scheme (PhAS) that will run from December 2016 until March 2018. There is no commitment to continue payments after this date. The average payment will be around £11,600 in 2016–2017 and £17,600 in 2017–2018. The exact payment will be based on the funding the pharmacy received in 2015Â–2016, incorporating an efficiency saving of 1% in 2016–2017 and 3% in 2017–2018. This efficiency saving is smaller than the one being applied to other pharmacies, which is 4.6% in 2016–2017 and 8.3% in 2017–2018.
“While efficiencies are being asked of community pharmacy, just as they are of other parts of the NHS, there is still sufficient funding to ensure there are accessible and convenient local NHS pharmacy services across England,” says Keith Ridge, chief pharmaceutical officer for England.
Pharmacies not on the list can apply to NHS England to have their case reviewed. Applications for review will be accepted from 1 November 2016 and must be made within three months of the start of the scheme (by the end of February 2017). NHS England will aim to complete the review process within six weeks.
Applications for review can be submitted if the pharmacy is believed to be more than one mile from the nearest pharmacy; if a semi-permanent road or bridge closure means that the nearest pharmacy is more than a mile away; or if the nearest pharmacy is less than a mile but the journey is particularly difficult.
Reviews of eligibility will also be granted to some pharmacies that may have narrowly missed out on the scheme through distance criteria (i.e. they are 0.8 miles or more from the nearest pharmacy). The near miss criteria will apply to pharmacies located in the 20% most deprived areas of England. To be successful in the review process, a pharmacy will need “to demonstrate that a local population relies on that pharmacy and would be materially affected by its closing”.
If a qualifying pharmacy subsequently increases the volume of prescription items it dispenses, the pharmacy will not lose entitlement to PhAS payments. “This is to ensure that pharmacies are not penalised for becoming more efficient, and seeking to grow their business,” the DH’s document says.
On funding beyond 2018, the DH states: “Funding levels and the PhAS beyond March 2018 will be subject to further consultation, which will include reviewing the PhAS and its effectiveness.”
In a statement issued on 20 October 2016, the Royal Pharmaceutical Society says: “Today we have heard more detail about the PhAS, with some additional funding for pharmacies in deprived communities. It remains to be seen if this scheme will lessen the impact on opening hours and staffing levels in these vital community pharmacies.”
- This article was amended on 26 October 2016 to clarify that the pharmacies named on the list published by the Department of Health were identified on the basis of distance from other pharmacies not on the basis of being in areas of deprivation.