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Doctors complain Pharmacy First will create ‘significant’ funding disparity


Doctors complain Pharmacy First will create ‘significant’ funding disparity

The introduction of Pharmacy First next year will see community pharmacies in England paid “more than double” the amount GPs get per consultation, a doctors’ lobbying group has claimed.

In the wake of last week’s Pharmacy First announcement, the Doctors’ Association UK (DAUK) issued a warning to new health secretary Victoria Atkins that she must urgently review general practice funding to address what it described as “significant disparities in funding”.

The new pharmacy service will allow pharmacists to provide funded advice and treatment for seven common conditions, including uncomplicated UTIs, impetigo and earache.

In addition to a £2,000 set-up payment and £15 for every consultation, participating pharmacies will receive £1,000 each month if they reach an activity threshold of one consultation per month from February, rising to 30 per month by October next year.

DAUK said it had calculated that the combined payments will see pharmacies receive £48 per consultation from October, which it said is “more than double the £23 per consultation that GPs currently receive”.

Manchester-based GP and DAUK spokesperson Dr Steve Taylor said: “A consultation at £48 is a reasonable fee but NHS GPs are receiving less than half that and are struggling to fund the staff they need and the quality of care patients want. 

Dr Taylor said that while he welcomed the “expansion of simple consultations to pharmacies” at a time when GPs are under strain, “what is not welcome is the continued lack of resources allocated to GP practices”.

He warned that GPs have undergone a real-terms cut as modest rises in capitation funding – up from £153 per head in 2015 to £163 now – have been outpaced by an 18 per cent rise in workload.

“The average patient now receives seven consultations a year, most of which will be much more complex than those being now shared with pharmacists,” Dr Taylor added.

“And it works out at less than half the rate for pharmacists – and frankly it’s not enough.”

Despite GP surgeries being incentivised to recruit staff through the nationally funded Additional Roles Reimbursement Scheme, Dr Taylor said financial difficulties mean practices “can’t afford to employ and recruit members of staff, which effectively reduces capacity and is even causing some GPs to leave the profession.” 

He urged Victoria Atkins to “urgently respond to the needs of practices and support GPs so they can continue to provide care for patients”.  

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