Is the new contractual framework in England a good deal or a bad one for community pharmacy?
Rather like Orthrus, the two-headed dog in Greek mythology with each head pointing in a different direction, there are two diametrically opposed views on this. Both are represented in this issue, from “total disaster” on the one hand to “best hope of changing our fortunes” on the other.
It is hard to see a financial upside. A five-year fixed deal may give contractors a degree of certainty but with the global sum pegged back to a lower level than before the 2016 cuts, not to mention the phasing out of establishment payments and guaranteed MUR income, pharmacy owners are on the brink.
Even a modicum of new money would have helped to grease the wheels. Contractors will be anxiously keeping an eye on the annual negotiations to determine funding distribution as the balance shifts from dispensing to services.
And yet... at least a roadmap is now in place that will guide community pharmacy in England towards a clinical service-based model that reflects the sector’s own aspirations, aligns it more closely with other NHS providers and helps meet the objectives of the Long Term Plan. The devil will be in the detail, but the Community Pharmacist Consultation Service, for instance, could be transformative.
So it’s a leap of faith. If pharmacists can deliver and become invaluable to the NHS in the same way that GPs are, the argument for more funding, say locally from PCNs, becomes much stronger. The question is – are you ready or able to jump?