Pharmacies should look into offering private services, says former lead negotiator

Exclusive: Former chief executive of the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee Simon Dukes said that he had received “intelligence” that ministers may continue to make cuts in community pharmacy funding.

Community pharmacies in England should look into offering private services, as the government still believes “it can make cuts” from the sector, pharmacy’s outgoing lead negotiator has told The Pharmaceutical Journal.

The comments came as Simon Dukes, former chief executive of the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) spoke at The Pharmacy Show on 17 October 2021 and urged community pharmacies to “explore other funding streams available” outside of the five-year community pharmacy contractual framework agreed with NHS England, which froze overall funding until 2023/2024.

Dukes, who left his position at the end of September 2021, told delegates that he had received “intelligence” in the final weeks of his tenure, which suggested “that despite everything the sector has done over the past 18 months … the Treasury still sees pharmacy as a place in which it can make cuts”.

“This is unthinkable — it’s unbelievable,” he said. “As a sector you’ll need to do everything in your power to win hearts and minds of the Treasury and its officials.”

However, he added that community pharmacy does “have allies” in health secretary Sajid Javid and pharmacy minister Maria Caulfield.

On 14 October 2021, Javid revealed he was working with the NHS on “a ‘Pharmacy First’ scheme for England” in a move that would expand community pharmacy’s role in treating minor ailments.

Dukes later clarified to The Pharmaceutical Journal that community pharmacies will “need to look locally” for additional funding outside of the national NHS contract.

“Getting the odd ten grand makes no difference but there is a lot of money out there that’s being divested from the centre into the NHS locally and we should tap into that,” he continued.

“And also there are other opportunities — and I don’t just mean the pharmacy integration fund — I mean real significant pots of money that clearly have been found somewhere for the GPs to do certain things.

“I don’t believe we’ll get any more money in these five years but [we can] set ourselves up for a really good pitch for the next contractual framework.”

When asked whether the additional funding streams should also include community pharmacies providing private services, Dukes said: “Yes, they should because people will pay for them and, looking at models elsewhere in the world, they have used that to good effect”.

Dukes’ comments come after the PSNC’s requests for additional funding in the third year of the pharmacy contract were met with a “flat rejection” from the Treasury.

Meanwhile, GPs have been provided with £250m as part of a new ‘Winter Access Fund’, which includes referring patients to community pharmacy through the Community Pharmacist Consultation Service by 1 December 2021.

READ MORE: Government impact assessment of pharmacy contract warned it could cause closures

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Citation
The Pharmaceutical Journal, PJ, October 2021, Vol 307, No 7954;307(7954)::DOI:10.1211/PJ.2021.1.110850