Contractors_ have_ asked_ me_ whether_ they_ should_ sell

01 February 17Umesh Modi

Having attended a few pharmacy events in recent months, the general feeling amongst contractors is very downbeat and disillusioned.

They are very worried about the future after the 12% cut to funding hit in December. Not just about their businesses but for patients’ safety, the possibilities of staff redundancies and on-going cash flow. Their concern also centres round what will happen after 2018? Some have asked me if they should look to sell out now, but are worried about future income. Equally, they were not sure if they should invest in the business. Is it worth it? The day-to-day demands of red tape, paperwork and staff training and development is proving burdensome too.

I recently attended an event hosted by the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) and the National Pharmacy Association (NPA) at the Harrow Arts Centre in London and here the negotiator did its best to keep contractors updated and advise them on how to take advantage of the government’s Pharmacy Access Scheme and Quality Payments criteria.

During the event, Alastair Buxton, director of NHS Services at PSNC, reiterated the amount of cuts for 2016/17 and 2017/18 and potential loss of income for community pharmacies. He mentioned that Judicial Review is delayed until March but if successful, it would ensure that future negotiations with the Department of Health are more a two-sided affair. Even if not successful, it is important to go through this process to avoid similar unilateral decisions post 2018.

The ‘Murray’ report into pharmaceutical clinical services was very positive for contractors and the level of services they provide. Pharmacists should be encouraged by this.

PSNC urged contractors in deprived areas to appeal to be put on the list for Pharmacy Access Scheme, even if they are located less than one mile away from the nearest pharmacy. Anything up to 0.8m could qualify Mr Buxton stressed. The appeal should be filed before the deadline of end of February and PSNC and the NPA would be glad to assist.

Lelya Hannbeck, chief pharmacist at the NPA then hosted a session about the qualifying criteria to receive Quality Payments and smartcards governance controls. There are eight criteria, each of which can earn points. The maximum number of points that a pharmacy can earn across two review points is 100. Each point will entitle a pharmacy to quality payment initially of £64 per point. Any funding remaining following the two review points (April and November 2017) will be distributed to qualifying pharmacies in 2018.

While pharmacy organisations do their best to encourage contractors during these hard times, pharmacists remain at a complete loss as to why the government is going down this road, especially when the NHS needs more help than ever from the sector. There is a definite crisis going on in the UK’s health service, with long waiting lists and cancelled operations in hospitals and A&E departments, not to mention that GP surgeries are equally busy with the shortage of doctors and staff. Why alienate the contractors at this critical time for the NHS?

The mood is sombre and I get the sense that contractors do not see much of a future in this profession with the uncertainty prolonged post 2018.

Umesh Modi