The DDA is already in contact with the Department of Health over the surprise announcement yesterday that pharmacy funding will be cut by 6% from 2016-17.
The letter, which is signed by the director general, Innovation, Growth and Technology, Department of Health and the chief pharmaceutical officer, also signals a clear intention to reduce the number of community pharmacies.
It says: “In some parts of the country there are more pharmacies than are necessary to maintain good access. 40% of pharmacies are in a cluster where there are three or more pharmacies within ten minutes’ walk. ” PSNC has described the threat to the network as “clear”.
The announcement, made late yesterday afternoon, imposes a cut of £170 million in the funding for community pharmacy in England in 2016-17. This reduces the global sum from £2.8bn to £2.63bn – a cut of more than 6% in cash terms.
Dispensing practices are not specifically mentioned in the letter, but the fear is that funding for medicines supply (reimbursement) in England and Wales will also be affected by the move – as pharmacies and dispensing practices share the same Drug Tariff.
Commenting, DDA chairman Dr Richard West said: “Any changes to dispensing doctors’ contracts must be subject to formal consultation and negotiation between NHS England, the DDA and the BMA. To date, we have not been made aware that there is any intention to change the contract for dispensing doctors.
“Please be assured that we are already in touch with the Department of Health and NHS England about the implications of this letter for dispensing practices. As soon as we have more information, we will share it with the membership.”
To assure patient access to pharmacies, the letter points to additional funding for “those community pharmacies upon which people depend”. Stated replacements for the bricks and mortar pharmacy network include developing online services including ‘click and collect’ models, and hub and spoke dispensing.
PSNC has described the shock news as “unprecedented, and in stark contrast to the secrecy that the NHS has always insisted on for negotiations in the past”. CEO Sue Sharpe said: “At a time when primary care and urgent care services are struggling to manage demand, this is a profoundly damaging move. The impact of the cuts will force pharmacies to reduce staffing levels and direct more people to GP or urgent care.
“[The Government] believes efficiencies can be made within community pharmacy without compromising the quality of services or patient access to them. [Pharmacists] will be sceptical about the expertise within the Government that underpins its assertion.”