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Community pharmacy

Outsourcing of primary care support by NHS England increased pressure on community pharmacy, says PSNC

In evidence submitted to an inquiry, the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee said that community pharmacy has faced an additional workload with no compensation after NHS England outsourced primary care support.

NHS England’s outsourcing of primary care support increased the workload for community pharmacy, the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) has said.

In evidence submitted to an inquiry into the Primary Care Support England (PCSE) services provided by Capita, the PSNC also said community pharmacy has not been paid any compensation for the additional workload, even though GP practices were given £250 compensation for extra work they had to take on.

In May 2018, a report from the National Audit Office said support services provided to pharmacists, GPs, dentists and opticians were “a long way below an acceptable standard” after NHS England and Capita misunderstood the risks of outsourcing primary care support services.

The House of Commons Public Accounts Committee (PAC) has launched an inquiry and, in its evidence to the investigation, the PSNC said community pharmacy had experienced problems with various PSCE services, including the delivery of controlled stationery, such as electronic prescription service tokens, and customer service.

However, it said that the “major problem, which continues in part”, was market entry arrangements. As a result, one pharmacist was unable to retire until the relevant forms were processed by PCSE and NHS England; another paid for two premises while his application to move premises was delayed; and others reported lost income or additional costs while applications were delayed.

The PSNC said the service had improved “since mid-2017” but that delays “are still a feature of the market entry service”.

In July 2016, the PSNC asked for community pharmacy contractors to be compensated but it said no such compensation has been received.

In its statement, the PSNC concluded that although there was no evidence that patient care had been adversely affected by the outsourcing, community pharmacy had faced an additional workload as a result.

“It is difficult to understand why some of the issues were not foreseeable, particularly that the market entry regulations are detailed and complex,” the evidence submission said.

Gordon Hockey, director of operations and support at the PSNC, said the organisation welcomed the opportunity to submit evidence to the PAC and hoped the inquiry would help ensure lessons are learnt.

“We are pleased our work to raise the matter and push for improvements – as well as work with contractors, local pharmaceutical committees, NHS England and Capita – has had some impact, with services generally improving since 2016,” he said.

“We will continue to work with Capita to ensure the improvements continue.”

Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal DOI: 10.1211/PJ.2018.20205031

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