The Department of Health has agreed to put up an extra £87 million in funding for the pharmacy contract in 2009/10 following talks with the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee, marking a rise of 3.9% on what it set aside last year.

Furthermore, the government has also agreed to make “substantial provisions” to help pharmacy contractors deal with special one-off costs – such as the implementation of the second stage of the electronic prescription service (EPS2) – to ensure that services can continue to be delivered effectively during the current tough economic climate, the PSNC said.

“The financial environment continues to be challenging for pharmacy contractors, but the Minister has sought to protect levels of funding in the period before the results of the joint PSNC/DH Cost of Service Inquiry can identify funding needs for the future”, commented the Committee’s chief executive Sue Sharpe.

Results of the Cost of Service Inquiry are expected next year, and it is hoped that they will help to ensure contractors’ remuneration and reimbursement is a true reflection of the cost of community pharmacy service provision, the PSNC noted.

Support for pharmacy commissioners
Meanwhile, the NHS Alliance announced earlier this week that it is establishing a new network to help support the commissioning of pharmacy services, in preparation for when primary care trust boards take control of the pharmacy budget.

According to the Alliance, the key aims of the Pharmaceutical Services Commissioning Network, which will formally be launched next month, is to hook up its members to facilitate the flow of knowledge on best practice, identify opportunities, challenges and solutions from the front line of pharmacy commissioning, and influence future related policies.

In the first instance, the network will be focused on Pharmaceutical Needs Assessments, which are designed to help prioritise the commissioning of services by local need and the availability of funding, and from March next year will form the basis of all new contract applications, the group noted.

Voicing his support for the new Network, Duncan Petty, Chair of the Primary Care Pharmacists Association, said: “We are moving into a new era where pharmacy commissioning will become a management discipline in its own right. Providing both clinical specialists and commissioning managers in the field with an independent source of peer support is an essential part of the development process”.