Community pharmacy contractors should stop providing free services that are “clearly outside” the remit of the contractual framework, the PSNC has warned.
In a statement today PSNC chief Simon Dukes said pharmacies are increasingly being asked to “pick up primary care work” outside of their nationally funded services, a trend that has been exacerbated during the Covid-19 pandemic and is becoming unsustainable.
He cited a number of examples including delivering medicines to patients not covered by the pandemic delivery service (now scrapped in most regions), taking blood pressure measurements and helping patients to reorder repeat prescriptions from their surgery.
The negotiator reminded contractors that this work is not funded by the five-year contract and that they "have the right" to charge people or to refuse.
Contractors are also reporting higher numbers of patients presenting at pharmacies “with a wide range of conditions that fall outside of minor health conditions and the usual support offered by pharmacies,” said Mr Dukes, including patients asking for pharmacists to diagnose a serious condition or provide “comprehensive” mental health advice.
He said that while the PSNC was in talks with the Government around reconciling contractors’ Covid-related costs and further funding uplifts no agreement has yet been reached, adding that the “treacherous financial situation” facing many pharmacies means it is “simply not possible” to carry on offering free services.
“This advice is not given lightly – of course all community pharmacies want to do all that they can for the benefit of their patients. But as a sector we have for many years offered services free of charge or at a tariff that does not even cover our costs, and this simply is not sustainable in the current funding environment.
“Without action to balance costs, the core professional services of pharmacies may all be at risk, and this would have a significant and detrimental impact on patients which must be avoided.”
Mr Dukes said “many businesses” have already decided to charge for some services in order to recover costs, and encouraged other contractors to explore this.