Chief Executive’s blog: January 2020

Chief Executive’s blog: January 2020

“CPCS success has only been possible thanks to the phenomenal response of the sector”

By Chief Executive Simon Dukes

As far as our paymasters and their public messaging goes, 2020 has started on a high for community pharmacy. Within the first few weeks of January we have seen several positive messages about the sector and more encouraging comments from the Secretary of State. In a speech on January 11th, Matt Hancock said of the Community Pharmacy Consultation Service (CPCS):

“This pharmacy first approach makes life easier for patients and will help reduce pressure in the NHS. I want to see more patients with minor illnesses assessed close to home, saving them unnecessary trips to A&E or the GP, and helping people get the care and advice they need quicker… we want every patient with a minor illness to think ‘pharmacy first’.”

Pharmacy Minister, Jo Churchill, has similarly backed this pharmacy first policy. NHS England and NHS Improvement (NHSE&I) has launched its latest advertising campaign promoting pharmacy and they have been talking to the national media about the CPCS. They are very pleased that more than 114,000 patients have now benefited from ‘referrals to highly-skilled pharmacists’, with 64,067 requests for urgent medication, and clinical advice provided to 50,208 people with a minor illness.

These are fantastic figures and have only been possible thanks to the phenomenal response of the sector to the Government’s asks of us – to have more than 10,000 pharmacies signed up to offer the CPCS within its first few months is a big success story and one that all pharmacies should be proud of. Nobody can say that pharmacies are not ready, willing and able to do what is asked of us, and it’s good to see officials and politicians alike recognising the work you are all doing.

But where does all the positive noise leave us?

What the press releases and the speeches don’t mention is that, in businesses and pharmacies across the country, the story does not feel positive at all. Already last year we were seeing some pharmacy businesses concluding that free services such as prescription deliveries were no longer sustainable to provide without charging patients. This year we know that many of you are still battling with supply issues on a daily basis; we have seen financial updates that show considerable losses even in some of the large, successful pharmacy businesses; and we know from the feedback we receive from LPCs and our Regional Representatives that many independent pharmacies are having to think very seriously about the prospect of losing their businesses.

PSNC must be, and is, at the forefront of making the case for further investment in the sector. In agreeing the new deal, we knew full well that flat-cash funding for a further year, let alone five, would be very hard indeed. But we also knew that to agree a shorter deal left us open to a high risk of further cuts in subsequent years. So, we built-in an Annual Review process to the CPCF for this purpose. However, as things stand, we cannot wait to the autumn to put the case for further investment into our sector – a sector which if Matt Hancock’s words are to be believed is becoming increasingly important to the NHSE&I.

That’s why PSNC is working with others in the sector, with LPCs and the other pharmacy organisations, to start to get our messages heard: to show the value and potential that we offer, but also the very real hardship that our businesses are facing; to make a convincing case for further investment in our sector and come up with plausible options for future funding. And we must accelerate the work to release capacity in the sector.

We are very pleased that the NPA and CCA are both hosting meetings on Hub and Spoke this month to help us to do some of this work, and I have also been working with the CEOs on a set of joint priorities for us all to work towards during the year. But for PSNC the core business doesn’t go away: we continue to negotiate the details for the CPCF in 2020/21 and on margin and reimbursement, which we will tell you more about as soon as we can. We’re also looking forward to the findings of the independent review of Contractor Representation and Support which should give us some ideas for how we can all work better together, this year and beyond to help the people on the front line deliver the services NHSE&I and our patients need.

You are all making an incredible difference to the communities you serve, and we will continue to fight your case. The data and the stories that you are generating help to do that – please keep them coming.

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