HDA Media And Political Bulletin – 20 October 2016
|Pressure builds on Mowat as Labour and PSNC attack cuts
19 October 2016, Pharmacy Business, Neil Trainis
The Community Health and Care Minister, David Mowat is under increasing pressure from both the Labour Party and the PSNC over the proposed plans to reduce community pharmacy funding. The PSNC has rejected a funding package proposed by the Department of Health that would have cut the pharmacy’s budget by 12%. On Monday, David Mowat was asked by the Labour MP Michael Dugher for a statement on community pharmacy’s budget during a debate in the House of Commons. MPs from the Labour Party and the PSNC have tabled responses to David Mowats claims in the House of Commons debate, asking for clarification on multiple statements that they deem misleading.
The PSNC’s full response to the Parliamentary debate on community pharmacy can be found here.
Prime Ministers Questions; Community Pharmacy, 19 October 2016
Stephen Pound (Ealing North) (Lab): I am much obliged, Mr Speaker. Can there be a single Member of this House who does not have reason to be grateful to those heroes of our high street, community pharmacists? Can there be any member of the public who is not as bemused as I am that the Government are proposing a 12% cut in the community pharmacy budget, potentially leading to 3,000 closures? Will the Prime Minister express her support for community pharmacies and have another look at this divisive, corrosive and destructive proposal?
The Prime Minister
Everybody in this House recognises the role and contribution of community pharmacies up and down the country, but it is also right that we look at how we are spending NHS money. That is why the Government are looking carefully at this whole issue. If the hon. Gentleman supports community pharmacies, perhaps he ought to have a word with the Leader of the Opposition, because his right hon. Friend’s policy is to nationalise the health service completely, lock, stock and barrel—GP surgeries, Macmillan nurses and community pharmacies.
19 October 2016, Pharmacy Business, Neil Trainis
David Mowat, the community health and care minister, is coming under increasing pressure to reveal details on the amount of money to be taken out of community pharmacy’s budget as Labour MPs and the PSNC intensify their attacks on the government over its intention to reduce the sector’s funding.
Details on the government’s reductions to pharmacy’s budget for 2016-17 and 2017-18 have been absent since Mowat’s announcement at the start of September that the cuts, originally placed at £170 million for the next year, would be delayed.
Rejecting proposals on 2016-17 funding by the Department of Health last week, the PSNC claimed ministers were planning to reduce pharmacy’s budget by 12%, although official confirmation of that from the government was also conspicuous by its absence.
A fundnng package was supposed to be formally announced by mid-October and the government’s continued silence has only exacerbated anger and confusion within the pharmacy profession.
On Monday Mowat (pictured) was asked during a debate in the House of Commons by the Labour MP Michael Dugher for a statement on community pharmacy’s budget. Mowat said the government would “expect to be in a position to make an announcement to the House shortly.”
In a letter to Mowat, Dugher and the shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth accused the community health and care minister of “several glaring factual inaccuracies” during the Commons debate which were “at odds with existing government policy.”
In that letter, seen by Pharmacy Business, Dugher and Ashworth accused Mowat of sending out mixed signals over the roll-out of a national minor ailments scheme by April 2018. Mowat had told the Pharmacy Business Awards on October 13 that the government was committed only to launching a national pilot of the scheme.
Dugher and Ashworth also asked Mowat to explain how, in his words to the Commons, “no community will be left without a pharmacy” when the cuts will force pharmacy closures.
“How are you in a position to make this commitment at the same time as pushing through a package of cuts that could force an unspecified number of community pharmacies to close in areas that you are also unable to specify?” they wrote.
Dugher and Ashworth asked Mowat for an estimate on the number of pharmacies that will close as a result of the cuts and, again accusing him of mixed messages, wrote: “You said in your remarks that ‘nobody is talking about thousands of pharmacies closing’, yet it was your predecessor, Alistair Burt MP, who estimated that up to 3,000 community pharmacies could close because of government cuts.”
They also asked Mowat to withdraw his remark that each pharmacy receives establishment payments of £25,000 “just for being open and for being a pharmacy.” Establishment payments, which the government has pledge to phase out, are received by pharmacies dispensing 2,500 or more prescriptions each month.
“You claimed that every community pharmacy received £25,000 of government funding per annum, but this is not true. There are at least 560 community pharmacies which do not qualify for the establishment payment. Will you take this opportunity to withdraw this remark?” Dugher and Ashworth said in the letter.
The PSNC was also quick to criticise Mowat’s performance in the Commons, particularly his suggestion that “each establishment now receives an average £220,000 of margin over and above the cost of drugs disbursed.”
In response the PSNC said: “The £220,000 figure used by the minister has to cover the costs of delivering those services including rent and other property costs as well as bills, staff and all other operating costs.
“The £25,000 establishment payments to which the minister refers are a mechanism through which some of that funding is delivered to pharmacies dispensing more than a minimum number of prescriptions; it does not represent a payment over and above the agreed funding for the sector for its NHS activities.”
Mowat’s suggestion that the Pharmacy Integration Fund, worth £300 million over five years, “will be used entirely to provide services and pay for pharmacies to provide them” was also questioned by the PSNC who said: “Its value is £20million in 2016/17, growing in future, and until now the government has been clear that it would not be entirely used for community pharmacy services.”
The PSNC added: “We understand that the £300million fund will be used over a five-year period with initial spending covering the costs of the urgent medicines supply pilot. NHS England has said that it intends to use some of the fund in later years to fund pharmacists working in care homes and urgent care centres; neither of which will necessarily benefit community pharmacies.
“NHS England has also committed to spending at least 10% of the fund on the evaluation of services.
The PSNC attacked Mowat’s suggestion that “the proposals we are setting out in the round are expected to make pharmacy access better than it is now.”
The PSNC responded: “The proposed funding reductions will have a significant impact on some pharmacies and their patients. Funding for 2017/18 will be set at £2.592billion, a reduction of 7.4% on the current level. Funding for 2016/17 will reduce from December 2016 to March 2017 to £2.687billion, cutting average pharmacy funding by 12% compared with the present levels for those four months.
“The removal of Establishment Payments will target for the greatest cuts the low dispensing pharmacies in areas with the highest health needs. They would see fee income reduced by around 20% next year, at a time when the NHS has said that efficiency targets of 4% are too high to be achievable, and has reduced targets to 2%.
“We expect that pharmacy owners will be forced to take steps to reduce costs. These are likely to include reducing opening hours and staffing, and stopping the provision of services they provide free today, such as home delivery of medicines and the supply of medicines in compliance aids. We are very concerned about the impact that this will have on patients.”
19 October 2016, Chemist & Druggist, Annabelle Collins and Grace Lewis
Pharmacy minister David Mowat was forced to defend the planned cuts to the sector’s funding from opposition MPs during a parliamentary debate this week.
Labour MP Michael Dugher tabled an urgent question in parliament on Monday (October 17), following the government’s proposals to slash pharmacy funding in England by 12% for December 2016 until March 2017.
During the debate, MPs questioned Mr Mowat (see box) on how many pharmacies could close as a result of the cuts, how the drop in funding could impact the sector’s ability to ease NHS pressures, and how vulnerable patient groups could be affected.
Mr Mowat emphasised the government has spent “the past ten months trying to get this right”, and referred to the GP pharmacist scheme, as a way the government intends to “embrace the pharmacy profession”.
On Tuesday (October 18), the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) raised a number of questions in response to the minister’s remarks during the debate. It called Mr Mowat’s denial that 3,000 pharmacies could be at risk of closure “not credible”.
“Most recently the government has retreated from its previously stated aim and said that there is no intention to close pharmacies although they ‘recognise pharmacies may close as a consequence of their proposals’,” the negotiator said.
“We do not believe this change of position is credible in the face of the approach taken in the proposals,” it added.
Labour MPs Mr Dugher and shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth penned an open letter to Mr Mowat on Tuesday (October 18) calling for him to clarify the “glaring factual inaccuracies” he made during the debate.
The Department of Health had to clarify Mr Mowat’s comments on the minor ailments scheme funding, after the minister alluded to a “nationally commissioned service”.
Here are some of the questions Mr Mowat faced on Monday, and his responses:
Jonathan Ashworth, Labour MP for Leicester South and shadow health secretary
Q: As the minister knows, his predecessor talked of the potential for up to 3,000 pharmacies to close. Is that correct?
A: We do not believe that the number will be anything like that big. In some areas, there are 10 or 11 pharmacies within half a mile of each other. Leicester, Birmingham – we can talk more about this. It is quite possible that at the end of the review, some of those pharmacies will merge.
Kevin Barron, Labour MP for Rother Valley and all-party pharmacy group chair.
Q: You said that an impact assessment will be published, so that it would inform the final decision. Can the minister tell us when that will be published? Will it be shared with representatives of community pharmacists?
A: As my predecessor [Alistair Burt] said, an impact assessment is being produced, and when these proposals are published in their entirety, that will be published at the same time.
Stephen Pound, Labour MP for Ealing North
Q: We cannot keep loading, even on to the willing shoulders of the community pharmacies, more and more responsibility while we are draining away the financial lifeblood. Would the minister care to become the most popular minister on the high streets of our nation by saying that he is going to have another look at this nonsense?
A: I am always keen to be popular, but I am also keen to do the right thing. Nobody is talking about thousands of pharmacies closing and I do not believe that will happen, but we have talked about hiring 2,000 more pharmacists in the GP sector.
19 October 2016, PSNC
Community pharmacy teams may have seen some of the continued national media coverage of community pharmacy following PSNC’s rejection of the Department of Health’s proposed funding package last week.
This week Michael Dugher, MP for Barnsley East who has been supporting the campaign for community pharmacy, raised an urgent question on community pharmacy in the House of Commons on Monday.
PSNC and the other national pharmacy organisations worked together to brief MPs very quickly on the day and this led to around 20 MPs asking pharmacy minister David Mowat MP questions on pharmacy. There was support from MPs across the spectrum of political parties. The minister’s responses raised a number of questions and PSNC has now contacted all MPs who took part in the debate asking them to follow up on these.
The key points made by the minister have been set out in a PSNC Briefing along with PSNC’s responses to them. The responses cover topics such as clustering and pharmacists working in GP practices and may be of interest to contractors and LPCs.
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