Vaughan Gething, Minister for Health and Social Services
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, I have stated publicly my gratitude for the significant part community pharmacies have played, and continue to play, across all areas of Wales. We were all very conscious of scenes reported in the media, of increased demand on pharmacies, particularly in the first weeks and months of the pandemic. Pharmacies continue to be a vital source of support and advice within all our communities as we enter the current lockdown, not only dispensing people’s medicines but also providing high quality clinical services to their patients.
In recognition of the sector’s contribution and this Government’s continued support for community pharmacy, my officials have for some time, been in discussion with the representative body of all community pharmacies in Wales, Community Pharmacy Wales (CPW), regarding the very specific pressures experienced by pharmacies during the pandemic and the additional expenditure incurred as a result. I also signalled, to the Board of CPW, it was my intention to provide additional resources, subject to a negotiated settlement.
An initial proposal was submitted in April and negotiations between my officials and CPW representatives have been ongoing since this time. The Welsh Government made a number of offers of increasing magnitude since April, including a best and final offer made on 17 November. At that point the Board of CPW did not feel able to endorse an agreement. I am conscious that further delay is not in the interests of pharmacy owners and in particular, those who are sole proprietors of independent community pharmacies. I therefore met representatives of CPW on 17 December to bring a resolution to the matter.
Following that meeting, I can announce today that agreement has been reached with CPW to provide additional funding of up to £5.6m directly to pharmacy contractors.
In summary the settlement/agreement comprises:
- a one off, non-recurrent payment of £5m to meet additional and other staff costs incurred during the pandemic;
- up to £0.6m to meet the service costs associated with Government sourced seasonal influenza vaccines administered by pharmacies;
- a guarantee that should pharmacies be engaged in the Primary Care COVID-19 Immunisation Scheme, service fees would be paid from additional funding; and
- deferment of further repayments against the £55m advance payment, made earlier this year, until the 2021-22 financial year, to support community pharmacies cash flow situation for the remainder of this financial year.
I have also agreed that further discussions with CPW will be held, should resources become available before the end of the financial year.
This settlement builds on the changes made already to support community pharmacies in Wales during the pandemic. These include additional funding for the roll out of Wales’ national video consultation platform to all community pharmacies; providing access to 3,000 pharmacists and pharmacy technicians to the range of tools including NHS email and instant messaging, available through Office 365; and capital investment to install and pilot the use of, automated prescription collection systems.
I will continue to make positive choices to invest in community pharmacies playing a greater role in the delivery of NHS services. The significant investment I am announcing today is in addition to the 3-year agreement I announced in June that will provide an additional £18.3m funding for pharmacies from April 2021, and increase overall funding for the sector by £8.6m per year by 2022-23.
This statement is being issued during recess in order to keep members informed. Should members wish me to make a further statement or to answer questions on this when the Senedd returns I would be happy to do so.