The Department of Health is planning a £170m funding cut to community pharmacy in 2016-2017, according to a letter written to the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee by the Chief Pharmaceutical Officer (Keith Ridge) and the Director General of Innovation, Growth and Technology (Will Cavendish). It has expressed a concern for the need to make efficiency savings and change the way community pharmacy works. The letter suggests that pharmacists will have a role to play in advisory services to patients including through greater connection with GPs such as through prevention of ill health and support for healthy living and treatment of minor ailments, in order to relieve pressure on GPs and Accident and Emergency Departments; however, the Government envisages less role for community pharmacy in dispensing with more being done centrally through a “hub and spoke” model and distance selling and home delivery. The letter also identified 40% of pharmacies being in a cluster of three or more within 10 minutes’ walk from each other.
NHS England and the Department of Health will consult on their plans until 24 March 2016, but community pharmacy has already reacted with horror to them. Sue Sharpe, the Chief Executive of the PSNC, said: “At a time when primary care and urgent care services are struggling to manage demand, this is a profoundly damaging move. It will deliver a destructive blow to the support community pharmacies can offer to patients and the public. The letter speaks of the potential for far greater use of community pharmacy and pharmacies in prevention of ill health, support for healthy living and minor ailments, but almost inevitably the impact of the cuts will force pharmacies to reduce staffing levels and direct more people to GP or urgent care.”

Paul Gershlick, a Partner and Head of Life Sciences and Healthcare at Matthew Arnold & Baldwin LLP, comments: “For community pharmacy, this is shocking news particularly the way in which it has been delivered with such strong sweeping statements and lack of detail. The Government seems to expect even more from community pharmacy for less, and without any clarity over how pharmacy will be remunerated.

“There is no doubt community pharmacy has to change and embrace the new challenges through better customer service and provision of extra services. They cannot just do what they have always done in the way they have done it. However, community pharmacy should be properly and clearly remunerated for the new services and the excellent parts they have to pay in making the future NHS work.

“It is also a mistake to assume that distance selling and “hub and spoke” are the answers. Patients like to visit their local community pharmacy and obtain advice, as well as receiving their medicine there and then rather than having to wait until it is delivered.”

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