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Hunt’s budget ‘brings no obvious good news for pharmacies’, says CPE chief

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Hunt’s budget ‘brings no obvious good news for pharmacies’, says CPE chief

Community Pharmacy England chief executive Janet Morrison has warned the government’s pledge to inject nearly £6 billion into the NHS in the next five years, including £2.5 billion to cover its day-to-day running costs in 2024-25, “brings no obvious good news for community pharmacies who need urgent relief from ongoing unsustainable funding and operational pressures.”

Morrison told Independent Community Pharmacist that the NHS productivity plan, announced by the chancellor Jeremy Hunt (pictured) yesterday as part of his spring budget which is designed to address the care backlog, tackle increasing patient demand and improve digitisation and automation in the health service, including overhauling an antiquated IT system, will do little to help community pharmacies that continue to struggle with rising overheads and inadequate funding.

Hunt’s budget cuts national insurance contributions by two pence from April 6 and increases the VAT threshold for small businesses from £85,000 to £90,000.

Insisting Hunt’s measures “will not provide the silver bullet that pharmacies so desperately need,” Morrison said: “While the investment in Pharmacy First, announced last year, is welcome and has been the most significant investment in pharmacies in a decade, further support is needed to stabilise the sector and its core contractual arrangements.

“If the one per cent annual growth in day-to-day NHS spending is applied across primary care, this will do little to fill pharmacy’s core funding gap. And while the NHS productivity plans may theoretically add some efficiencies across primary care, it remains to be seen if this will bring any real benefit to pharmacies. The devil will be in the detail.”

Morrison insisted CPE, which is in talks with the government over the 2024-25 community pharmacy contractual framework, is continuing to make the “case loudly and clearly” that pharmacies need more investment.


NPA: Hunt should back up positive words with more pharmacy funding

National Pharmacy Association chairman Paul Rees told ICP that Hunt, who has expressed confidence that Pharmacy First can help drive greater productivity in the NHS, “needs to recognise that the community pharmacy sector is in crisis.”

“He should back up the positive words with a funding package that fills the community pharmacy funding gap, stops the closures and ensures pharmacies are there for people,” Rees said.

“Pharmacies are already highly efficient NHS providers and should be funded to deliver more clinical services, cost-effectively. The budget seemingly makes an additional £2.5 billion available to the NHS for tackling waiting lists and improving performance. Given even a fraction of that extra funding, community pharmacies could massively increase access to primary care.”

The Company Chemists’ Association said it was “disappointing to not see further funding for the community pharmacy network” in Hunt’s announcement.

“With 1,000-plus pharmacies closing since 2015, the sector needs additional funding to ensure patients receive the medicines they need," it said.

Hunt, who claimed the £3.4 billion in investment for NHS IT systems will “unlock” 35 billion of savings, said all hospitals will use electronic patient records.


RPS: Adoption of electronic prescribing in hospitals must be accelerated

The England Pharmacy Board chair Tase Oputu said the productivity plan must also “accelerate the adoption of electronic prescribing in hospitals.”

“The roll-out of Pharmacy First has also shown just how important it is for pharmacists to be able to update a clinical record wherever they work and it is vital this is achieved as soon as possible,” she said, insisting the government needed to address the time pharmacists and GPs spend managing medicines shortages.

Oputu also urged the government to “provide greater clarity on next steps for the NHS Long-Term Workforce plan and how it will support recruitment and retention.”

 “This should include enabling pharmacy students to access the Learning Support Fund alongside other health professions,” she said.

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