The Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) has announced it is working with Pharmacy Voice, a trade association which represents community pharmacy in England, and the Royal Pharmaceutical Society to develop a ‘Community Pharmacy Forward View’ that will articulate how they believe “the community pharmacy network can best support the high performing, affordable health and care system envisaged in the NHS’s ‘Five year forward view’”.
The new plans for the future of community pharmacy, for which no publication date has been given, come after the PSNC says its counterproposals for making savings to the community pharmacy budget, submitted to the Department of Health in April 2016, have been rejected by the government.
The UK government’s proposals, announced in December 2015, involve slashing £170m from England’s community pharmacy budget from October 2016, sparking fears that around 3,000 pharmacies could close as a result.
The PSNC, the negotiating body for community pharmacy contractors in England, has since sought to examine the plans in more detail, but says its efforts “have been thwarted” by the government’s reluctance to be forthcoming about its policies.
Alastair Buxton, director of NHS services at the PSNC, says: “The forward view is not a piece of work designed as an alternative to the counterproposal that the PSNC presented as part of its discussions with the Department of Health and NHS England. Instead, it provides a broader and longer term shared vision for community pharmacy.”
The PSNC says its original counterproposals urged officials to consider for the first time the potential demand on the NHS that would result if patients could no longer rely on their local pharmacy for urgent medicine supply.
“We have been unable to obtain confirmation from the government of the scale of closures of community pharmacies it wishes to achieve,” the PSNC says, adding that it is willing to discuss a reduction in numbers where this could be done without detriment to patient choice and access to pharmacy services.
“The reluctance to explain the policies is, we believe, driven by a desire to avoid the opposition that they would provoke, and to forestall the argument that pharmacies that become unviable should be compensated.”
It has also sought access to information on the anticipated cost savings associated with the plan to drive automated remote dispensing and a reduction in pharmacies. “Officials have said informally that there is none,” the PSNC says.
In its response to the government’s planned cuts, published on 26 May 2016, the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) emphasised that the proposed cut in contractual funding will reduce the potential for community pharmacists to deliver additional value in the community with a knock on effect of increasing pressure on GPs, hospital emergency departments and other urgent care services.
Sandra Gidley, chair of the RPS England Pharmacy Board, says: “We are in no doubt that hastily implemented funding cuts to community pharmacy will mean greater costs for the NHS in the long term. There is a strategic imperative for the NHS to improve capacity and capability to support older people and those with long-term conditions.
“This, coupled with an emphasis on prevention of ill health, means we need to invest in community pharmacy, expand roles and enable better care,” she adds.