The Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) has said that it is “deeply disappointed” and “alarmed” it emerged that the Department of Health (DH) plans to cut community pharmacy funding in England by 12% from December 2016, with a further 7% cut due in 2017.
The comments follow a statement from the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) issued on 14 October 2016 stating its decision to reject the DH’s proposed 2016–2017 funding package for the sector.
“Funding cuts will not improve the quality of care for patients delivered through community pharmacy,” says Sandra Gidley, chair of the RPS English Pharmacy Board. “Pharmacists will not be reassured by this two-year deal which guarantees less resource for front-line care. We fear for patients, the public and pharmacists who may be significantly affected by changes in opening hours and staffing levels in community pharmacy, as well as the knock on impact on already pressured GP and A&E NHS care.”
Gidley also deemed plans for a pilot of a NHS emergency medicines supply scheme, which was announced by the DH on 13 October 2016, as completely unnecessary.
“The NHS emergency medicines supply service is already tried and tested, with fantastic results that have both improved patient care and freed up time for GPs,” she says. “There is absolutely no need for further piloting of a service that is badly needed as we head towards winter. This needs to be implemented across England without further delay.”
Further proposals announced by the DH were around the integration of pharmacy into NHS 111. However, no details on how either proposal would be funded, or how the Pharmacy Integration Fund (PhIF) will be used, have been put in the public domain.
The PhIF was first proposed as part of the government’s plans for the community pharmacy sector in December 2015.
“The lack of news on the promised Pharmacy Integration Fund defies logic at a time when greater integration of primary care services to improve patient care is such a priority for the NHS,” says Gidley. “We call on the government to make good on its promise ‘to bring pharmacy even closer into the wider primary care and community health system’, so we can see improved patient care through better use of pharmacists in care homes and urgent and emergency care in the years to come.
“We also need assurance that the Government is serious about a national NHS funded minor ailments scheme through pharmacy,” she adds.
The RPS says that it will continue to support its members through ”the difficult time ahead” and highlights that it has built stronger links with patient groups, local government and NHS England since the cuts were originally announced in December 2015.
“We have not lost focus on our strategic aim to gain a commitment from Government and NHS England that community pharmacy and pharmacists are integral to the future plan for the NHS,” assures Gidley.