Pharmacy cuts will be delayed, minister confirms

Pharmacy minister David Mowat confirmed yesterday, in a short pre-recorded video message at the Royal Pharmaceutical Society’s annual conference, that the Government’s planned implementation of the 6 per cent cut to community pharmacy funding in October would be delayed to “make sure that we are making the correct decision and that what we do is going to be right for you, right for the NHS and right for the public.”

Mr Mowat did not specify when next steps around the funding cut would be announced.

The minister praised the recently published Community Pharmacy Forward View as “an extremely good document” that “rightly recognises” the need for community pharmacy to move further away from dispensing into the services area. The core principles set out in the document were “spot-on” and “there’s a big contribution [pharmacists] can make in areas such as long-term conditions”. The quality of the document does testimony to the contribution your profession can make, he added.

He also briefly mentioned the decriminalisation of dispensing errors, recognising its importance to pharmacists and promising “we are going to make progress with that”.

Mr Mowat suggested that the 2 million-strong petition presented to Downing Street had been a factor in the Government’s decision to suspend its original plans. He described the petition as an “accolade” to the high regard in which pharmacists are held by their communities.

The minister ended by saying he is “very keen to work closely with the pharmacy profession”, adding that there is “absolutely no question….you have a major contribution to make to the health service and primary care in particular.”

Delegates at the conference greeted the minister’s message with an awkward silence and no applause, and noted that he appeared to stumble a couple of times when saying “PSNC”. One pharmacist, who did not want to be named, told Pharmacy Magazine it was “a huge snub” that the minister could not attend the conference in person at what was a critical time for the profession.

However, Sandra Gidley, chair of the RPS English Pharmacy Board, welcomed the minister’s speech, saying: “I am heartened that a second look is being taken at the proposed community pharmacy cuts and that the minister has recognised the strength of public feeling on the issue ... We look forward to welcoming him to our next conference.”

More reaction

Pharmacy Voice said that the continued uncertainty over the timing of the cuts is something that will require careful management by the Government and more specific information is needed. However, the delay does provide the opportunity to refocus the reforms around the sector-led Community Pharmacy Forward View.

Rob Darracott, chief executive, commented: “I am delighted to hear the minister agrees with the principles of our Forward View. I think the delay is a clear recognition of the depth of public concern about the proposals, as well as the interventions made by so many of the minister’s colleagues within Parliament.

“Both the Government and the sector now have a unique opportunity to start this process anew. We look forward to meeting with David Mowat and his team to discuss how we can translate the aspirations of the Forward View into a reality.”

The NPA also welcomed the delay in implementing the Government’s efficiency measures. Commented NPA chairman, Ian Strachan: “Naturally we are delighted that the minister has confirmed that there will be no funding cuts from October as originally planned. Even more important is his commitment to review the jumble of accompanying policy proposals that so threaten the future viability of the pharmacy network.”

For the promised dialogue to be meaningful it must draw on the experience of front-line community pharmacists and focus on patient-centred outcomes, he continued. “It has to be based on genuinely fresh thinking – it would make no sense to take as a starting point the discredited and universally unpopular proposals of December 2015.”

He was pleased that the minister appears to support the Community Pharmacy Forward View – “a sector-led document that looks to the future and gives us a chance to leave the disagreements of the past few months behind us. David Mowat should be congratulated for taking our advice to pause and reflect, and not simply wave through the discredited policy proposals that he inherited.”

The core principles set out in the Forward View document are spot-on

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