The pharmacy minister has defended the decision to freeze funding for community pharmacies over the next five years by saying it provides the level of certainty that pharmacy negotiators wanted.
Jo Churchill, the health minister, praised the new community pharmacy contract as a “landmark” deal in a House of Commons debate on the role of community pharmacies,
Churchill said the contract, which came into effect on 1 October 2019, would offer “£2.592bn in each of the next five financial years”.
However, Nic Dakin, Labour Party MP for Scunthorpe, questioned whether the health minister “recognise[s] that having no increase, even by inflation, for five years is a desperately big challenge to community pharmacies”.
Churchill told MPs that she has “heard the criticism that it is flat” funding but said “actually it is certainty that the [Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC)] said they wanted”.
“They wanted to be able to use their skills better and further, and they wanted certainty,” she said. “And it is in collaboration with them that we have determined this deal.”
She added that the contract is “the beginning of a programme to transform the sector and see community pharmacies play as much of an expanded role in the delivery of health and care across prevention, urgent care and medicines safety”.
The PSNC said in its initial contract announcement on 22 July 2019 that the agreed level of funding “is a significant increase on the government’s planned funding level”, claiming that “the NHS fully expected a cut in community pharmacy funding to have been made in 2018/2019 — with therefore a funding level in 2019/2020 of lower than £2.592bn”.