News

Media and Political Bulletin – 14 July 2020

Media and Political Bulletin

14 July 2020

Media Summary

Priti Patel sets out post-Brexit immigration plan – including health and care visa

BBC News, 13 July 2020

BBC News reports that a fast-track health and care visa has been unveiled as part of the UK’s plans for a points-based immigration system when freedom of movement with the EU ends in January.

The health and care visa will be open to workers who have a confirmed job offer in one of a series of “skilled” roles within the NHS or care sector – or for NHS service providers, such as doctors, nurses, radiographers, social workers and paramedics.

In a written ministerial statement to the House of Commons, Ms Patel said: “At a time where an increased number of people across the UK are looking for work, the new points-based system will encourage employers to invest in the domestic UK workforce, rather than simply relying on labour from abroad.”

CMA fines three pharma companies for anti-competitive behaviour

P3 Pharmacy, Pharmacy Network News, 09 July 2020

P3 Pharmacy reports that the Competition and Markets Authority has fined three pharmaceutical companies a total of almost £2.3 million after they admitted taking part in an anti-competitive agreement on the supply of a drug.

The CMA found that Amilco and Tiofarma agreed to stay out of the market for fludrocortisone, a prescription-only medicine normally used to treat primary or secondary adrenal insufficiency or Addison’s Disease, and allow Aspen to maintain its position as the sole supplier in the UK.

The CMA said Aspen also paid the NHS £8m “to help resolve the (its) competition concerns in relation to fludrocortisone.”

Parliamentary Coverage

MHRA regulatory flexibilities resulting from coronavirus (COVID-19)

Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency, 13 July 2020

The MHRA released guidance for industry on flexible approaches to regulation they are taking during the COVID-19 outbreak, which can be found here.

House of Commons – Written Answers, 13 July 2020

Alex Norris (Nottingham North): To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, what steps the Government is taking to ensure the financial sustainability of pharmacies.

Jo Churchill: The Secretary of State for Health and Social Care has a duty to ensure access, in England, to National Health Service pharmaceutical services. These are commissioned from community pharmacies who are private businesses. £2.592 billion a year was committed to the sector in the five-year deal from 2019/20 to 2023/24 for the NHS pharmaceutical services they provide, a total of nearly £13 billion. To maintain access in areas where there are fewer pharmacies or higher health needs, additional payments, from within that funding, are made under the Pharmacy Access Scheme to eligible pharmacies.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, £350 million in extra advance payments have been made to address cash flow, and support pharmacies in maintaining medicine supplies and providing health advice. Additional payments above the £2.592 billion for 2020/21 have been made to support additional opening hours on Bank Holidays and for a medicine delivery service to shielded patients. We continue to work with the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee to assess any additional COVID-19 related costs that it may be necessary to cover.

Alex Norris (Nottingham North): To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, whether the Government plans to increase the level of long-term funding allocated to community pharmacies in response to the covid-19 outbreak.

Jo Churchill: The funding for National Health Service pharmaceutical services provided by community pharmacies in England was set at £2.592 million a year until 2023/24 through the five-year deal; a total of nearly £13 billion. The deal contains an annual review to ensure that the services commissioned under the community pharmacy contractual framework (CPCF) remain within that financial envelope.

The five-year deal, published by the Department in July 2019, sets out an expanded role for community pharmacy across prevention, urgent care and medicine safety. It will provide accessible and convenient healthcare, allowing people to quickly access a much wider range of services and health advice, in the heart of their community, relieving pressure on general practitioner (GP) practices and other parts of the health service, including secondary care.

In October 2019, we launched the Community Pharmacist Consultation Service, which refers people with minor illness and urgent medicine needs direct from NHS 111 to community pharmacy as the first port of call. Pilots are currently running on expanding this successful service to include referrals from GP practices. We will evaluate these pilots and, if positive, negotiate new service specifications into both the CPCF and the GP contract.

Government asked to produce plans for ‘predictable supply’ of PPE ahead of second COVID-19 wave

The Pharmaceutical Journal, Caroyln Wickware, 08 June 2020

The Pharmaceutical Journal reports that the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee said it was “extremely concerned” by reported shortages of personal protective equipment during the COVID-19 pandemic.

MPs have asked the government to produce a plan of how it will procure “a predictable supply” of personal protective equipment (PPE) by September 2020, ahead of any second COVID-19 wave.

The PAC recommended the DHSC “write to the Committee within two months to clarify its governance arrangements and outline at what point in the future it expects to have a predictable supply of stock and ready access to PPE supply within the NHS and care sectors”.

This was also reported in Pharmacy Business.

Man sentenced for making and selling fake COVID-19 treatment kits

City of London Police, 09 July 2020

A man has been sentenced to ten months suspended sentence and 170 hours unpaid work, after he pleaded guilty to making fake COVID-19 treatment kits and selling them across the world. Please find the full report here.

Full Coverage

Priti Patel sets out post-Brexit immigration plan – including health and care visa

BBC News, 13 July 2020

A fast-track health and care visa has been unveiled as part of the UK’s plans for a points-based immigration system when freedom of movement with the EU ends in January.

Home Secretary Priti Patel said employers would be encouraged to invest in workers from within the UK.

But the new system, she added, would also allow them to “attract the best and brightest from around the world”.

Unions have expressed concerns that the visa will exclude social care workers.

The health and care visa will be open to workers who have a confirmed job offer in one of a series of “skilled” roles within the NHS or care sector – or for NHS service providers, such as doctors, nurses, radiographers, social workers and paramedics.

However, the GMB union, representing NHS staff, described the new rules as an “embarrassing shambles”, criticising the exclusion of frontline care home workers and contractors, and pointing out that a minimum salary threshold meant many cleaners, porters and support staff would also not qualify.

‘Shortage occupations’

The new visa system is set to come into force on New Year’s Day, immediately ending freedom of movement with the EU.

Under the government’s plans when the Brexit transition period ends, those wishing to live and work in the UK must gain 70 points.

There is a mandatory requirement for visa applicants to have an offer of a job on a list of eligible occupations and speak English – earning them 50 points.

There is a minimum salary requirement of £20,480.

Further Points would be awarded for meeting criteria such as holding a PhD relevant to the job, or earning more than a “general salary threshold” of £25,600.

Those with job offers in “shortage occupations” such as nursing and civil engineering would also be able to earn extra points.

In a written ministerial statement to the House of Commons, Ms Patel said: “At a time where an increased number of people across the UK are looking for work, the new points-based system will encourage employers to invest in the domestic UK workforce, rather than simply relying on labour from abroad.

“But we are also making necessary changes, so it is simpler for employers to attract the best and brightest from around the world to come to the UK to complement the skills we already have.”

Labour said it would scrutinise the proposals “very carefully”, saying the government had “rushed through immigration legislation with very little detail in the middle of a global pandemic”.

The new health and care visa will have a reduced fee. Those applying for it should expect a reply within three weeks, the government said.

Caroline Abrahams at charity Age UK said it was a “care visa in name only. Care will scarcely benefit at all since the vast majority of care workforce roles are ineligible”.

The union Unison said the work of the social care sector was in crisis long before the coronavirus pandemic and failing to include care workers was a “disastrous mistake that will make existing problems spiral”.

Shadow home secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds said: “To exclude care workers from the health visa is a clear signal that this government does not appreciate the skill and dedication these roles involve… it is yet another insult from this Tory party to those who have been at the frontline of this crisis.”

However, the prime minister’s official spokesman said the government wanted employers in the sector to invest more in training and development for people already in the UK – including EU citizens – to become care workers, and it had provided additional funding to support it.

“Our independent migration advisers have said that immigration is not the sole answer here,” he added.

The home secretary said frontline health workers would not have to pay the Immigration Health Surcharge – the fee of up to £400 a year that most migrants who have not been granted permanent residency in the UK need to pay to receive NHS care.

Ms Patel also said the visa process for students was being refined, with a new graduate route being launched next summer to “help retain the brightest and the best students to contribute to the UK post-study”.

International students would be able to stay for a minimum of two years after finishing their studies, she said.

The paper also confirms that foreign criminals who have been jailed for more than a year could be banned from coming to the UK and foreign nationals already in the UK who have been sentenced to a year or more in prison “must be considered for deportation”.

CMA fines three pharma companies for anti-competitive behaviour

P3 Pharmacy, Pharmacy Network News, 09 July 2020

The Competition and Markets Authority has fined three pharmaceutical companies a total of almost £2.3 million after they admitted taking part in an anti-competitive agreement on the supply of a drug.

The CMA found that Amilco and Tiofarma agreed to stay out of the market for fludrocortisone, a prescription-only medicine normally used to treat primary or secondary adrenal insufficiency or Addison’s Disease, and allow Aspen to maintain its position as the sole supplier in the UK.

In return, Amilco received 30 per cent of the increased prices Aspen charged for the treatment and Tiofarma was allowed to be the sole manufacturer of the drug for direct sale in the UK.

The price of fludrocortisone to the NHS rose by as much as 1,800 per cent.

The CMA said Aspen also paid the NHS £8m “to help resolve the (its) competition concerns in relation to fludrocortisone.”

Government asked to produce plans for ‘predictable supply’ of PPE ahead of second COVID-19 wave

The Pharmaceutical Journal, Caroyln Wickware, 08 June 2020

The House of Commons Public Accounts Committee said it was “extremely concerned” by reported shortages of personal protective equipment during the COVID-19 pandemic.

MPs have asked the government to produce a plan of how it will procure “a predictable supply” of personal protective equipment (PPE) by September 2020, ahead of any second COVID-19 wave.

The House of Commons Public Accounts Committee (PAC) also criticised NHS England and Improvement (NHSE&I) for failing to publish its “long-awaited ‘people plan’”.

The report ‘NHS capital expenditure and financial management’ published on 8 July 2020 comes after a survey of 445 pharmacists, conducted by the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, revealed that one in three were unable to access PPE between 14 and 20 April 2020.

The PAC said it was “extremely concerned by the widely reported shortages of PPE faced by NHS and care workers” during the pandemic.

“The Department [of Health and Social Care (DHSC)] says that, nationally, it never ran out PPE stock, but that COVID-19 had put supply chains and distribution networks under unprecedented strain,” the report said.

“It tells us that this required substantial changes to how the system managed distribution and posed great challenges getting the available equipment to the right place at the right time.”

They added that despite claims from the DHSC that it is building stocks to meet long-term demand, “we were not convinced that it was treating the matter with sufficient urgency”.

As a result, the PAC recommended the DHSC “write to the Committee within two months to clarify its governance arrangements and outline at what point in the future it expects to have a predictable supply of stock and ready access to PPE supply within the NHS and care sectors”.

“It is absolutely vital that the same problems do not happen again in the event of a second wave,” the report said.

Claire Anderson, chair of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society English Pharmacy Board, said: “The surge in COVID-19 in Leicester shows how important it will be to maintain adequate supplies of PPE and rapid access to testing.

“If we’re looking ahead to a potential second wave combined with winter pressures, we must have the right contingency plans in place so that pharmacy teams and all health and care workers are able to support patients safely.”

The PAC also recommended the DHSC look into integrating “training and education funding models with service planning and delivery” to improve investment in the NHS workforce and their training.

NHSE&I “has yet to publish its long-awaited ‘people plan’ and there is a continued lack of long-term investment in people and training, which is not helped by the lack of alignment across the Department, NHSE&I and Health Education England”, the report said.

It added that a “clear line of accountability” was needed and recommended the DHSC “review the effectiveness of having a separate body overseeing the planning and supply of the NHS’s future workforce” by December 2020.

The ‘NHS people plan’ was expected to be published in late 2019 following the government’s next spending review, with the interim plan — published in June 2019 — suggesting Health Education England and NHS England “explore development” of a foundation training programme for pharmacists.

Media and Political Bulletin – 14 July 2020

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