Petitions, spoof Twitter accounts, muttered threats of industrial action – it has been an anxious and fractious start to the year for contractors in England following the now infamous letter from NHS England and the Department of Health announcing a 6 per cent cut in pharmacy funding and January’s category M clawback.
It would appear that ministers are intent on using the blunt instrument of forcing businesses to go to the wall (alongside vague mention of what are unproven hub and spoke dispensing arrangements) in order to achieve “efficiencies” i.e. reducing the number of pharmacies. It seems a highly risky and ill-thought-through way of ensuring equitable access to pharmaceutical services without comprising quality or continuity.
Of course, the supreme irony here is that it was the policy of a previous Government that resulted in a large increase in pharmacy numbers thanks to the disastrous meddling with control of entry, now conveniently forgotten.
It is inevitable in the circumstances that PSNC finds itself in the firing line. The negotiating body has long had its critics but the essential truth of the matter is that the money has run out (except for general practice) and it is pharmacy’s turn to bear its share of the pain.
In these difficult times it is vital that the profession presents a united front. The Government, which has long employed a divide and rule policy when it comes to its dealings with the sector, will be looking to exploit any divisions between the representative bodies. In adversity, far better to stick together.