The Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) has vowed to provide a voice for those who feel let down by last week’s Department of Health letter announcing 6.1% cuts to contractual funding for community pharmacy.
RPS English Pharmacy Board chair Sandra Gidley says the announcement makes it “clear the government wants something different from the sector” and that community pharmacy now has a chance to “shape” its own future.
“For the first time, the RPS will have a substantial role in providing a voice for those who have felt completely disenfranchised by the current community pharmacy negotiating arrangements,” says Gidley. “I will be announcing in the new year how you can make sure your voice is heard through the RPS.”
The letter, which was issued to Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) chief executive Sue Sharpe on 17 December 2015, revealed that funding for the community pharmacy contractual framework in England will be substantially reduced to £2.63bn from October 2016 – a cut of £170m – as part of efficiency savings in the NHS.
“The cut in funding for 2016 comes at a time when pharmacists and their teams are working flat out, focused on making sure patients and the public receive excellent care. This news will make community pharmacists feel completely undervalued,” says Gidley.
“The RPS believes that any cut to community pharmacy, and primary care generally, is short-sighted, if the government is committed to its stated aim of investing in primary care and prevention of ill health,” she continues.
The Department of Health’s letter also highlighted plans for the introduction of a Pharmacy Integration Fund and Pharmacy Access Scheme to ensure rural and deprived areas have better access to community pharmacy, a proposal which Gidley welcomes.
However, she warns against plans to further enable ‘hub-and-spoke’ dispensing, saying it could have a negative impact on the community pharmacy network, leading to “Amazon-like delivery services”. Gidley asks that the plans are “not devised in isolation but worked up coherently to ensure patient care and access to pharmacy advice is maintained”.
“Our job at the RPS is to ensure as many community pharmacists as possible will be able to make the transition from the current arrangements to a future that will put community pharmacists at the heart of primary care.”