Community pharmacy contractors in England, who have submitted a claim for costs incurred during the COVID-19 pandemic, can expect to receive payment from the NHS Business Services Authority from the beginning of October 2021, the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) has confirmed.
Speaking at the annual Local Pharmaceutical Committee (LPC) conference on 16 September 2021, Simon Dukes, chief executive of the PSNC, said that the “overwhelming majority” of contractors would be paid their claim in full.
For “around 5%” of contractors, “whose claims form an outlier in some way”, Dukes said they should also expect to be paid, but would be contacted individually over the details.
“Having this money will provide a much-needed financial certainty [for contractors],” Dukes told delegates at the virtual conference. “Lobbying and negotiating can be frustrating work …[but] we believe this is a fair agreement.”
The PSNC previously rejected an offer of funding from the government to help pharmacies with costs related to COVID-19 in the summer of 2020. The initial offer proposed only to accept claims from within a three-month window, excluded non-staff costs and capped the total value of claims at £120m.
Consequently, a revised offer from government removed the upper limit on the amount of claims it would pay for and enabled contractors to claim costs incurred from March 2020 to March 2021, a period of 13 months. Contractors were also able to claim for a wider range of costs, including non-staff costs, and multiples were able to make a single claim per business, whereas the original offer had sought a separate claim per branch.
At the LPC conference, Dukes confirmed that the total of claims submitted under the new deal “far exceeded” the original government cap of £120m.
“In my book, that makes the PSNC’s decision to stand firm more than worthwhile,” he told LPCs. “It’s what [the PSNC is] here to do; to ensure that all community pharmacy contractors are fairly paid for the vital work they do.”
As part of the deal, HM Treasury has “insisted” that the sector pay back the £370m advance payments, which were distributed in 2020.
The PSNC has previously said that the Department of Health and Social Care plan “to take back repayments in six equal monthly sums” from October 2021, but the negotiator will have “a further discussion on this in due course”.
Dukes will be stepping down from his role as chief executive of the PSNC at the end of September 2021.
Read more: Pharmacy negotiators strike deal allowing contractors to claim for COVID-19 costs