The NHS Business Services Authority has told Pharmacy Network News it is in talks with the Government to try and ensure the continuation of the Pharmacy Earlier Payment Scheme as finance company Greensill faces collapse.
Greensill, which in 2019 replaced Citibank as the Government’s financial partner in the advance payment scheme, normally pays participating contractors at the beginning of every month, offering contractors a low interest rate of 0.5 per cent.
PEPS payments, which provide early access to monthly advance funds for the provision of pharmaceutical services, are estimated based on a pharmacy’s dispensing history over the past 12 months. The scheme was updated last year to offer funds 60 days in advance, rather than one month as was previously the case.
However, contractors have told PNN that with the supply chain finance firm preparing to file for insolvency, their March 1 payment came instead directly from NHS BSA.
Sheffield contractor Martin Bennett told PNN that on Monday morning, “as usual I got a remittance advice from Greensill saying how much they were going to pay me,” with Mr Bennett expecting to receive the funds at around 4pm as usual.
However, later in the day he received an email from NHS BSA “explaining that there had been some problems and we wouldn’t get paid that day but some time before midnight”.
While he said NHS BSA has done “a very good job” to ensure payments came on the first of month, preventing pharmacies' wholesaler payments from bouncing, “my worry is what will happen in the future – a lot of pharmacies are in a position where if they lose this payment it could have a knock-on effect on their ability to purchase medicines”.
An NHS BSA spokesperson told PNN: “We are aware of the latest developments from Greensill and we are in discussions with DHSC to determine our next steps. All members of the Pharmacy Earlier Payment Scheme received their monthly payment in full on Monday.
“We can assure scheme members that our priority is to ensure they will continue to be paid. We will continue to communicate with all PEPS members as soon as we have more information.”
NHSBSA told PNN it could not disclose how many pharmacies avail of the PEPS scheme in England, though it is thought to run into the thousands.
A PSNC spokesperson told PNN: “Contractors have been rightly concerned by the news regarding Greensill: given the more general parlous state of community pharmacy funding, they cannot afford for anything else to impact on their income or cashflow.
"We will continue to monitor the situation carefully: this must not turn into another issue, outside of contractors’ control, to hit the financial confidence of the sector.”
The negotiator said it had recieved assurances from NHS BSA that contractors "will continue to get paid".