The Government and NHS have today promised a £645m investment in community pharmacies over the next two years to support a pharmacy common conditions service, along with the NHS Pharmacy Contraception and NHS Hypertension Case-Finding services.
This is the most significant investment in community pharmacy in well over a decade and it follows many months of sustained campaigning work by PSNC, highlighting both the untapped potential and the pressures in pharmacy, and building on our bid for a fully-funded Pharmacy First service which we made in March 2022.
The investment was announced as part of a new Government and NHS blueprint setting out plans to improve access to primary care, including by allowing patients who need prescription medication for seven common conditions to get this directly from a pharmacy.
The commissioning of a common conditions service from pharmacy – with appropriate funding – would be a huge win for community pharmacy and its supporters. Thanks go to pharmacists, LPCs and everyone in the sector who has helped to build support for this in line with our Four-Point Plan, and to the many MPs who have supported the sector in Parliament.
Pharmacies are increasingly being seen as a first port of call for the public and, back in March, PSNC-commissioned YouGov polling showed how strongly the public would support such a service.
The additional investment in existing pharmacy services is also a welcome response from Government to PSNC’s concerns about the affordability of these within the current funding envelope.
The Government and NHS have set out ambitious aims for the two services, saying that almost half a million women could use the NHS Pharmacy Contraception Service, and 2.5 million blood pressure checks could be carried out in pharmacies.
The overall investment is a clear vote of confidence from Government and the NHS and one which we hope will help to give community pharmacy a platform from which to build more positively for the future.
As usual, service details and funding allocations will now be subject to negotiation between PSNC, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) and NHS England. These discussions, which will also look at the cost of IT integration and marketing of pharmacy services to the public, have already commenced and we hope to be able to report back to the sector over the summer.
We have published some initial FAQs below, but until the detailed negotiations have concluded we will not know the extent and speed with which this investment will help the sector through the immense challenges that it currently faces.
PSNC’s Negotiating Team, which includes independent contractors, representatives of large multiples and an AIM contractor, will lead these negotiations for the sector.
As we take these discussions forward, PSNC will remain very focused on the huge pressures facing pharmacy businesses and on the need to find long-term solutions to these. We expect our vision and strategy work – being delivered by Nuffield Trust and The King’s Fund – to be published in the coming months and we will continue to work to lay the ground for future CPCF negotiations.
Janet Morrison, PSNC Chief Executive, said:
“This investment in community pharmacy and its future – the biggest investment in pharmacies for many years – is a huge vote of confidence from Government, the NHS and from Ministers. It is a direct result of the positive campaigning work that has been led by PSNC, working hard to promote community pharmacy as a solution to some of the wider primary care pressures and problems. Thank you to everyone in the sector who has supported this influencing work.
“We hope that a fully-funded common conditions service and additional investment in the two existing services will help to give us a platform from which to build an ambitious future for pharmacies and the communities they serve. It is now clear that Ministers recognise the value that pharmacies can offer and the services we can provide if we are put on a sustainable footing, and we will be looking to build on that positivity through our ongoing vision and strategy work. A financially supported community pharmacy sector can do so much more.
“We are looking forward to discussing the details with DHSC and NHS England, but as ever, the devil will be in the detail, and our Negotiating Team are deeply aware of and very focused on the immense and underlying challenges that pharmacies are still grappling with. It is not yet clear the extent to which this investment will be enough to help the sector through these pressures, and our strategic work to lay the ground for future CPCF negotiations will continue at pace alongside the negotiations on this significant and very positive policy win.”
Background information on the primary care blueprint
The pharmacy investment was announced as part of a new Government and NHS blueprint for primary care, which has set out their plans to improve access to primary care.
Alongside the pharmacy plans, a £240m investment in General Practice was announced, including to support investment in better phone technology and the training of Care Navigators.
NHS England said the actions set out in the plan are expected to free up around 15 million GP appointments over the next two years.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q. Should we now be offering the NHS Pharmacy Contraception Service?
Government and the NHS hope that the sector will now feel more confident in offering this service and it is indeed very positive that they have listened to and responded to PSNC’s concerns about the affordability of it. But until the detailed negotiations have concluded we won’t fully know what this means for the service and its affordability, so for now PSNC’s position is unchanged. We will review this position in due course.
Q. What will be the scale and scope of the work to help people with common conditions be?
This is now subject to negotiations and we will update the sector as soon as we are able to. We have been working for many months to build support for a fully funded Pharmacy First service and hope these will be constructive negotiations with a very positive outcome for pharmacies and their patients.
Q. When will the service launch?
We want to get extra funding flowing to pharmacies as soon as possible, but we will need to wait for the detailed negotiations to conclude and for the necessary enablers, such as IT systems, to be in place before the service can launch.
Q. How will the £645m funding be distributed between the services?
This is now subject to detailed negotiations.
Q. Is this a long-term investment in the sector?
This funding has been agreed across Government and the NHS as an initial investment – we all have long-term aims for the services, but future investments will depend on outcomes and future negotiations.
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