NPA chief executive calls for community pharmacy to receive 2.5% of NHS budget

Speaking to The Pharmaceutical Journal, Paul Rees said the community pharmacy sector is “in the midst of the worst funding crisis in living memory”.
Closed independent pharmacy

Paul Rees, chief executive of the National Pharmacy Association (NPA), has called for community pharmacy in England to receive 2.5% of the total NHS budget.

Speaking to The Pharmaceutical Journal, Rees said that the funding model for community pharmacy was “broken”.

“We believe that the government needs to commit to ensuring that 2.5% of the NHS budget is given to community pharmacy, which will see it being adequately resourced in terms of the margin element of the global sum,” he said.

“There is a £1.3m funding black hole. We need a new deal for pharmacy and that should be based on dispensing, fees for clinical services, deprescribing and social prescribing.”

Rees, who took over as chief executive of the NPA in November 2023, also called for a halt to any clawbacks of the reimbursement pharmacy contractors receive for medicines dispensed each month, until core funding is adequate to cover the cost of delivering the medicines supply service.

“Lots of pharmacists are dispensing medicines at a loss and that’s happening on an increasing basis,” he explained.

Government data, published in 2022, show that there has been a £790m real-terms core funding cut to community pharmacy in England during the five years of the ‘Community pharmacy contractual framework for 2019/2020 to 2023/2024‘, as a result of inflation.

The number of community pharmacies operating in England fell for the fifth year in a row in 2023, but Rees warned that funding needed to be increased to prevent further community pharmacies from closing.

“The [community pharmacy] sector is at a crossroads. It’s in the midst of the worst funding crisis in living memory, because the percentage of the NHS budget given to community pharmacy has declined from 2.4% to 1.6%,” he said.

In response to Rees’ comments, a spokesperson for the Department of Health and Social Care said: “Community pharmacies play a vital role in our healthcare system and are backed by £2.6bn a year in government funding.

“We’re also providing up to £645m to ensure smooth roll-out of our Pharmacy First scheme [in England] and help community pharmacies, including providing improved IT and a wide range of guidance and support.”

On 23 November 2023, pharmacy representatives told the House of Commons Health and Social Care Select Committee that the funding system for community pharmacy needed to be completely overhauled if the existing network of pharmacies is to survive.

Last updated
The Pharmaceutical Journal, PJ, February 2024, Vol 312, No 7982;312(7982)::DOI:10.1211/PJ.2024.1.229365

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