13-14 OCTOBER 2024

09 Apr 2024

Negotiations on 2024/25 Contractual Framework Commence

Negotiations on 2024/25 Contractual Framework Commence

The formal tripartite negotiations on the Community Pharmacy Contractual Framework (CPCF) in 2024/25 began at the end of February. This starting point was later than planned due to urgent work ahead of the Pharmacy First rollout, but still started ahead of the start of the financial year, as was the aim of the three negotiating partners – Community Pharmacy England, the Department of Health and Social Care and NHS England. This follows the five-year CPCF deal. Negotiations are confidential; however, CPE has committed to updating pharmacy owners on the outcomes as soon as they are able. 

These negotiations start against a rocky backdrop for community pharmacy. 

Announcing the start of negotiations, Janet Morrison, CEO of Community Pharmacy England acknowledged:  

‘Community Pharmacy England, along with everyone in the community pharmacy sector, has been warning about the perilous financial situation that pharmacy businesses now find themselves in, as well as the lack of capacity available within community pharmacy, on an ongoing basis both in private and public. We will continue to underline that, as well as the significant risks posed to medicines supply and to patient care, throughout this negotiation.’ 

She went on to say that: 

‘We believe that we, the NHS and DHSC all share a goal to make Pharmacy First a success, but given the progress of other primary care negotiations, we expect to begin a long way apart from them on core funding. We’ll be using the huge volume of evidence and analysis that we have to argue what we know to be true: that whatever the Government and NHS’ affordability challenges may be, they cannot afford to stand by and let community pharmacies fail.’ 

Just a month later, in what appears to be a clear example of just how far apart the DHSC and CPE may be, the pharmacy minister, Dame Andrea Leadsom, stated that community pharmacy ‘continues to be a thriving market’. Just three days later Guardian analysis of pharmacy closures found that 953 pharmacies have closed since the end of 2017, with poorer areas experiencing proportionally more closures. 

Dame Andrea elaborated by saying she believes that the overall package of support and provisions remained very strong, and that access (to community pharmacies) remained good. Meanwhile, the Guardian piece highlighted that 372 pharmacies closed in England in 2023, over three times more than the year before, according to General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) figures. In the same year (2023), Scotland lost six pharmacies and Wales 12. 

The introduction of Pharmacy First is identified by most as a positive step in increasing the clinical services offered by community pharmacy, however if more than a fifth of pharmacies are having to scale back their opening hours, as revealed by the Pharmaceutical Journal at the beginning of March, and yet other owners are having to borrow money or remortgage (Paul Rees, in the Guardian), then there could be a real disconnect opening up between potential and reality. Many in the sector will be keenly awaiting news from the contract negotiations, to ascertain what the future may hold for the sector. 

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