NHS England streams extra £16m into GP pharmacists scheme

NHS England is to more than double its funding for a pilot scheme placing pharmacists in GP practice teams, now streaming a total of £31 million into the programme. Under the plans, the number of pharmacist posts in the pilot will be increasing from 250 to 403, giving more than seven million patients access to expert advice from a clinical
pharmacist when they visit their GP.

Pharmacists will be able to consult with and treat patients directly, which should help release some of the pressure on GPs by trimming their casework and allowing them to employ their skills where they are most needed.

PharmaTimes Digital, 17 November 2015

Boots’s market-based pay award sees pharmacists’ salaries rise by maximum 1.5%

Pharmacists who work for Boots will have a small pay rise or will have their pay frozen under a new system that measures salaries against UK competitors. Boots pharmacists’ pay has either been frozen or has risen by a maximum 1.5% under the company’s new pay review system.

Pay rises for Boots pharmacists are determined by comparing their current salary with the median of salaries paid by the company’s UK competitors. Pharmacists who work at Boots will have a maximum salary increase of 1.5% under the company’s new pay review system.

The pay award — which is non-negotiable and applies from 1 November 2015 — has for the first time been based on an external market median of the salaries paid by the company’s UK competitors.

The pay awards of between 0% and 1.5% apply to newly qualified pharmacists, level 1 pharmacists and advanced practitioners. Under the new system, each pharmacist’s pay rise is calculated by comparing their current salary with the median. Pharmacists who are in the 80–100% range of their salary median could expect to see a higher increase in their salaries of around 2–4%, but if they sit between 100–120% of the median, the pay rise could be lower at around 0–2%.

The 2015 pay award was influenced by an “unstable salary market” and a “dramatically” changing pharmacy workforce, according to a letter sent to Boots’ pharmacists by Kevin Birch, the company’s retail pharmacy operations director. “We’ve looked at our market data and can see that our market rate is out of step with other salaries in the marketplace,” he wrote.

Boots confirmed in a statement that none of its pharmacists will have their pay cut under the new system. “In fact, most have seen annual increases for the past few years, including two increases this year,” the company said. “However, the average salary for pharmacists is based on the market, and current conditions mean the market rate has fallen slightly; we aim to pay pharmacists between 80% and 120% of the market rate, and this gives line managers flexibility to do what is right for the people working for them.”

The market rate used by Boots to determine salaries is based on its survey of what its competitors are paying their staff. Geography and other factors — including individual performance — are also taken into account before individual pay awards are set. Those pharmacists who are performing well could be awarded a rise above their median market rate at the discretion of their line manager.

The Pharmacists’ Defence Association (PDA) Union, which represents around 2,500 Boots pharmacists, says it has been contacted by members who are unhappy with their pay rise.

Mark Pitt, the PDA Union’s assistant general secretary, is advising members to log an employee grievance if they are disappointed with their individual award.

The PDA Union is involved in an ongoing legal dispute with Boots over being allowed to negotiate terms and conditions for Boots pharmacists.

Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal, PJ December 2015 online

George Osborne has included NHS dentistry on a hit-list of professions where customers deserve ‘a better deal’.

George Osborne has included NHS dentistry on a hit-list of professions where customers deserve ‘a better deal’.

The Chancellor attacked ‘opaque and confusing’ dental charges, ‘inaccurate information’ about treatments and ‘rigid regulatory controls’, which restrict patient choice.

A 25-page ‘blueprint for a better deal’ put dentistry alongside everything from mobile phones, broadband, water bills and school uniforms as areas needing action on competition and prices.

Vowing to save the average family £470 a year, Mr Osborne said: ‘This broad package of reforms will make markets work better for families. ‘Driving competition will improve choice for people and ensure they get a better deal, and cutting red tape will help businesses grow and thrive.’

Dentistry promises

On dentistry specifically, the Treasury document promised to:

End ‘opaque and confusing’ price lists, saying: ‘The Government will ensure that dentist treatment plans and price lists are clear and easily accessible’
Use the long-delayed reform of the NHS dental contract to weaken ‘rigid regulatory controls that dictate who can enter the market’ – through ‘non-time limited’ terms. It said: ‘The Government believes that there are opportunities to improve both efficiency and competition in the provision of dental services and will be carefully considering the issue of non-time limited dental contracts as part of broader work on contract reform’
Deliver clearer information on available treatments and the prices involved ‘by spring 2016’, using the NHS Choices website.
Informed decisions

The document noted that a 2012 report by the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) found that 500,000 patients each year ‘may be provided with inaccurate information by their dentist’.

And it said: ‘The Government will ensure that dental patients in England have access to the information they need to make the right decisions about their dental care, by asking NHS England to reinforce the existing contractual requirement to ensure patients understand NHS treatment and prices, and to further improve the information available through NHS Choices by spring 2016.

‘These changes will empower patients to make the best and most affordable choices for them.’

Dentists were promised a new NHS contract by the last Coalition Government, to be delivered by last May’s general election, but the deadline was missed.

The Department of Health did release details of new prototypes to test the entire proposed contract, rather than parts of it – as the first pilots did – but there is still no date for the contract’s implementation.