• Community pharmacists take real-terms cut while being expected to do more clinical services
  • Pharmacists to take minor ailment referrals and urgent medicine supply from NHS 111 this year

Funding for community pharmacy will be cut by 9 per cent in real terms under a new deal in which the sector will be expected to provide more clinical services.

The settlement, announced yesterday by the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee, NHS England and the Department of Health and Social Care, means funding for the sector will remain flat in cash terms, at £2.59bn, over the next five years.

Factoring in forecast inflation means the budget will be worth around 9 per cent less in real terms by 2023-24. The NHS budget will rise in real terms by around 18 per cent over the same period, while the rest of the non-NHS portion of the DHSC budget has yet to be determined.

The community pharmacy sector suffered deep cuts after 2015-16, when its budget stood at £2.8bn.

However, the PSNC said the settlement was more generous than had originally been planned by the government, as it had feared further cash terms reductions.

Chief executive Simon Dukes said: “The NHS fully expected a cut in community pharmacy funding to have been made in 2018-19 – with therefore a funding level in 2019-20 of lower than £2.592bn.

“Over the past four months, PSNC has put a considerable amount of data to DHSC and NHSE&I to demonstrate the rising cost base of the sector, as well as continually highlighting the value of pharmacy services, in order to try and persuade government to reverse that planned downwards trajectory of pharmacy funding. 

“While we have not succeeded in getting an increase in the overall sum, we have secured a commitment from government to a protected £13bn over five years.”

As part of the deal, pharmacists will be integrated with primary care networks and urgent care services, and expected to support the prevention agenda.

From October, pharmacists will be commissioned to provide minor ailments services, including receiving referrals from NHS 111. They will be paid £14 per completed consultation, in a bid to relieve pressure on GPs and other urgent care services.

Pilot projects will also see pharmacists taking referrals for patients with minor ailments from GPs, as well as from NHS 111 and urgent treatment centres.

The new deal also includes elements that fit with the primary care network agreements, in a bid to align the sector more closely with primary care.

The NHS is going to stop paying pharmacists to carry out medication use reviews, whereby pharmacists were paid to review the medicines their customers were taking.

Money for MURs will be tapered over the next two years, while the pharmacist component of PCNs comes on stream.

PCNs are getting money over the next five years to hire teams of clinical pharmacists to work across the network practices. A key element of their job will be carrying out structured medications reviews with the patients, replacing the MURs.

The HSJ Integrated Care Summit, taking place at the Hilton Deansgate, Manchester from 19-20 September, unites 150+ senior leaders from across the provider, commissioning and local council landscape to determine how to best capitalise on the new funding settlement to rethink service delivery to improve quality and outcomes for your local population.

Held under the Chatham House Rule, attendees will quiz Simon Stevens, Rosie Benneyworth and other national figures on general policy direction, and co-develop solutions to their local challenges with NHS and local government colleagues from across the country. The Summit is free to attend for senior NHS and public sector figures – register your interest here: https://integratedcare.hsj.co.uk/register-2019