‘Resilience’ of community pharmacies to be assessed as NHS England tenders contract for economic review of sector

The review will also look at the impact on deprived communities if pharmacies close.
nhs pharmacy sign

NHS England is tendering for a contract worth £500,000 to conduct an economic review of community pharmacy that will inform the NHS’s “future clinical strategy” for the sector.

This comes after the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) and the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) agreed in September 2022 to an independent economic review of community pharmacy as part of the deal struck for the final two years of the community pharmacy contractual framework.

According to a market engagement questionnaire, published on 27 January 2023, NHS England said the review aims “to enable NHS England to shape its future approach to commissioning from the community pharmacy sector, to get the best possible patient outcomes from NHS spending”.

As part of the review, the supplier will be expected to conduct a market analysis highlighting “the trajectory of the sector under the current funding model,” the questionnaire document said.

“[This will provide] information on the relative resilience of these companies, and analyse the risks of market failure, including suspension of services and the possible impact on specific populations, for example with regards health inequalities and deprivation,” it added.

In January 2023, The Pharmaceutical Journal revealed that pharmacies in England’s most deprived areas provide 50% more NHS services to their local populations but are also more likely to close, with experts warning that this trend will potentially “exacerbate health inequalities”.

A market analysis, conducted by the National Pharmacy Association (NPA) and published in September 2022, also warned of a “looming pharmacy collapse” that could see thousands of community pharmacies close without additional government funding.

NHS England’s review, which will run for nine months from March 2023, will also look into the economic advantage of offering clinical services in community pharmacies.

“NHS England has identified a number of clinical service areas which are clinically suitable for delivery within a community pharmacy setting,” the questionnaire document said.

“The analysis will establish which economic drivers determine the extent to which services are able to be efficiently delivered from community pharmacy, rather than provided elsewhere within primary care and the wider NHS.

“These factors should enable NHS England to help with decisions about which services to commission from community pharmacy.”

In a speech to the House of Commons on 9 January 2023, health secretary Steve Barclay hinted at plans to increase the number of services offered by community pharmacy, saying that the government would “work with community pharmacists to tackle barriers to offering more services”.

Commenting on the contract tender, Janet Morrison, chief executive of the PSNC, said: “We have been telling government and the NHS loudly and clearly that pharmacies are no longer economically sustainable.

“We hope that this review will now help prove that to them, and that is why our negotiating team pressed hard for it to be carried out independently and included as part of the agreement for CPCF [community pharmacy contractual framework] years 4 and 5.

“The results from this review will inform future negotiations and we will use the independent findings to press government and the NHS to take immediate action to help pharmacies become more sustainable. We are in close dialogue with NHS and DHSC about the review and are clear that we need to remain so throughout the process. It’s important that contractors are assured of the independence and rigour of the study before they commit to take part.”

Potential suppliers have until 15 February 2023 to submit a market engagement questionnaire.

Last updated
The Pharmaceutical Journal, PJ, February 2023, Vol 310, No 7970;310(7970)::DOI:10.1211/PJ.2023.1.173743

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