Delays with market entry applications

Community Pharmacy England has been increasingly aware of delays in the market entry process, which includes change of ownership applications. The process is administered by Primary Care Support England (PCSE) with decisions being made by integrated care boards (ICBs).

The delays appear to be due to a number of factors and issues including:

  • increased pharmacy sales, for example, the sale of hundreds of pharmacies by Lloyds, which has substantially increased the volume of applications and notifications being submitted,
  • delays due to not all the required information being provided by applicants (particularly fitness information) or delays with referees responding to reference requests,
  • delays due to PCSE’s capacity to process the high number of applications, and
  • delays at the ICB decision-making stage of the process.

The number of applications has also increased over the last year because many pharmacy sales have led to multiple applications. For example, NHS pharmacies sold where there is no change of legal owner (e.g. a share sale) do not require a market entry change of ownership application (or ODS code change) but the contractor must notify changes to its directors and superintendent pharmacist (and fitness information requirements may/usually apply).

Following this, if the new owner wishes to transfer ownership of the company/pharmacy into their existing pharmacy business, this will involve a change of ownership application and may also require new fitness information to be provided (and an ODS code change).

Community Pharmacy England is liaising with NHS England (which can provide advice to ICBs on market entry issues) and PCSE to try to help reduce the overall timescales for the determination of applications.

To assist pharmacy contractors: If you, as an applicant, are struggling to resolve issues with PCSE and delays with your application are lengthy, we invite you to contact us preferably by email at regulations.team@cpe.org.uk.

We will need some basic information on your application, for example, the CAS reference number allocated by PCSE and where it has got to in the process. We will seek to liaise with PCSE and the ICB on your behalf to identify and, if possible, help to resolve the issue that is delaying determination. We may also involve your LPC.

Please note that you must first follow up on your application with PCSE using its online enquiry form at https://pcse.england.nhs.uk/contact-us or telephone their customer support centre on 0333 014 2884 (who will arrange a call back to you from the market entry team) before we will be able to help you.

We have also produced a briefing that expands upon the requirements of the regulations and highlights the most common reasons for delays in the determination of applications. It is not a substitute for the guidance available, for example from PCSE at https://pcse.england.nhs.uk/resources/pmas-resources but should be of assistance to pharmacy owners who are applicants and those who are not, for example, those who may be selling their pharmacies.

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