The Department of Health has been warned against creating a “commoditised medicines supply service”.
English pharmacy contract negotiator PSNC has voiced concerns that new pharmaceutical services policy could bypass access to community pharmacies, and reduce the viability of the current pharmacy network.
In a written response to the community pharmacy funding cuts announced before Christmas, PSNC criticises Government ambitions to reduce the number of low dispensing pharmacies and to reduce the number of ‘clustered’ pharmacies – despite the promise of a new Pharmacy Access Scheme. This proposes new funding for multiple hundreds of pharmacies that offer benefit due to their location and the local health needs.
The pharmacy contract negotiator also denounces proposals to increase the duration of prescriptions. It says rather than optimise prescription duration, longer prescribing periods “could encourage waste”. There are also implications for the supply chain, which PSNC describes as “increasingly fragile” with a consequent risk to patients “of pharmacies being unable to supply prescribed medicines”.
Dispensing practices concerned about the potential effect on GP dispensing services are advised to read this letter from DDA chairman Dr Richard West, published yesterday. This points out that the DDA is being consulted formally about these changes proposed for community pharmacy in England, even though it is not clear at this point whether the changes will affect dispensing practices. Practices are asked to be aware of the consultation taking place, and the DDA’s intention to shape the outcome in the best interests of our members and their patients.
PSNC’s letter also reveals its expectation that £20 million in ‘pharmacy integration’ funding will be used to develop the role of pharmacists working in general practice. PSNC has told pharmacists that the Department has no plans to consider further community pharmacy clinical service development in 2016/17 and that the assumption is “that the care, advice and support community pharmacies give to their patients can be provided by pharmacists in general practices”. PSNC adds: “This is wrong.” Pharmacists are also warned to expect funding cuts from 2017-18 that are “far larger than the 6% stated in the letter”.