Community Pharmacies and Proposed Cuts

January 22, 2017 at 12:17 pm / by

Community pharmacies

Community Pharmacies are facing significant cuts in 2017. Here a repost of the article which recently appeared in the Ham and High:

Community pharmacies in Hampstead and Kilburn work tirelessly to serve local our area and to take pressure off other parts of the local health and care service. They play a vital role in preventative care by ensuring residents get the medical supplies and help they need without having to attend General Practice or hospital. They provide face-to-face consultations, without an appointment, providing essential healthcare advice to the community.

That is why I am hugely disappointed by the Government’s latest cuts specifically targeting community pharmacy.

From December 2016 to March 2017, average pharmacy funding will be cut by 12%. This amounts to £113 million worth of funding to the services which have traditionally been used to help offset staff and operating cuts elsewhere in the NHS.

Camden will be one of the worst affected boroughs in the country. Up to half of pharmacies are at risk of closure, and the most likely to go will be in the most deprived wards.

At the very least, this reduction to community pharmacy funding will see many reduce their hours, and will have a knock on effect with more people showing up at A&E. As we have seen over the Christmas period, this simply serves to put our underfunded NHS under even greater strain.

Both the Prime Minister and the Health Secretary have decided to shift the blame for waiting times exceeding four hours on our GPs, or on patients who visit A&E when trying to seek medical attention. Many will see through this, and instead point to the decision to opt for short-term cost saving measures as responsible for the issues now facing our health service.

Back in November, I invited our local pharmacists and members of the Camden and Islington Local Pharmaceutical Committee to join me in Parliament for a roundtable discussion. We discussed the predicted impact of the cuts and the best course for pharmacists to take in light of the new pressures they will face.

Unfortunately, they were unequivocal in what these funding reductions will mean. Pharmacies will be forced to close and in Camden, local residents would be losing the most accessible service the NHS has to offer.

In response to my representations, the Department of Health could only offer vague suggestions of how pharmacies could make up the shortfall.

One of their responses stated that ‘technology’ could be used to deliver the required efficiency savings. Though ‘technology’ will undoubtedly play an important role in the future of healthcare and community pharmacy, there is no evidence that the proposed greater uses of technology, for instance to remotely dispense medicines, will lead to cost savings.

Pharmacies provide essential NHS services over extended hours to my constituents every week, but their current level of service will simply not be possible if the changes go ahead. The Department of Health must urgently reverse these short-sighted and damaging cuts, to reduce the pressure on A&E and to keep our community pharmacies open.