In December, the Department of Health (DH) announced its proposal to cut pharmacy funding in England by 6.1% “as part of wider efficiency savings in the NHS”.
According to organisations involved in community pharmacy, these cuts will affect the services offered to us by our local pharmacies.
The Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC), the negotiator between community pharmacies and the DH, and the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS), the pharmacists’ professional body, warn that the cuts are very likely to affect the services that people with long term conditions use and rely on in order to manage our health conditions as best we can.
Find out how people with the long term neurological illness M.E. value their local pharmacy in my blog post Please tell me how your pharmacy helps.
Read this Guardian article by a pharmacist on the way pharmacists contribute to our healthcare by checking prescriptions are safe, advising how best to use medication, and providing health and self-care advice.
The All Party Pharmacy Group has warned that as many as one in four pharmacies could close as a result of these cuts. The government’s response at 10,000 signatures is really only the same content as the original letter to the PSNC – that community pharmacy is valued but it intends for these cuts to force closure of many pharmacies within communities.
A further RPS response was published on 16th February and can be read here.
We hear a great deal about the ageing population and the burden of chronic illness on the public purse. Considering the ever-growing proportion of the population living with long term conditions, and the role pharmacy plays in the primary care of those with chronic illnesses, cutting funding for providing pharmacy services is really short-sighted. Even more so when NHS England are heavily promoting pharmacies as the first port of call and as long term condition specialists, on the basis that pharmacies are generally located within communities and are well placed to help address health inequalities.
The proposed cuts are revealed in what sounds like a promising document, Putting community pharmacy at the heart of the NHS. In it, the DH is removing some funding and then putting a small proportion of this into funding “GP pharmacists”, clinics in GP surgeries, run by pharmacists. The profession welcomes the GP pharmacist initiative as an additional, more clinical role for pharmacists, but not at the expense of existing community pharmacy services.
The way community pharmacies work is that they are businesses which are reimbursed by the NHS for the cost of dispensed medicines and delivering other NHS pharmacy services, such as Medicines Use Reviews, the New Medication Service, and Pharmacy First (the minor ailments scheme). Some of the other free services, such as prescription collection and delivery are not subsidised. In addition, for some medicines, known as Category M medicines, the pharmacy isn’t reimbursed for the full wholesale price by the NHS, with the business having to absorb the shortfall.
Talking to my own small independent pharmacist, pharmacies have already had to trim expenses back as much as possible and there’s no leeway left at all for further savings on expenses, with them just scraping by.
Something will have to give, and the only things left to trim back on are free services such as prescription collection and deliveries, and jobs. Many pharmacies are already verging on operating with unsafe staffing levels. Some pharmacies will end up closing but in a its letter to the PSNC, the DH pretty much says it doesn’t mind if some pharmacies have to close due to the cuts because it thinks there are too many, but this may mean there is further to go to get our prescriptions.
As with many long term conditions, my symptoms can fluctuate wildly, affecting my mobility. At times I’m well enough to walk to my pharmacy and at other times I’m unable to and can’t afford to run a car so I have my medication delivered.
Adding another 100-200 metres on to a walk to the next nearest pharmacy might not seem like a big deal to a healthy person with good mobility but it can make a massive difference to the ability to access pharmacy services by people with disabilities. The preferred option is to collect in person so that the pharmacist can monitor how we’re doing and give advice, but if delivery services go, this will seriously affect housebound and semi-housebound people.
The pressure community pharmacies are under is well summed up by this pharmacist in the comment section of this Pharmaceutical Journal article (pay-walled after 2 visits a month).
More funding =More services (otherwise who will pay for the workforce required.)
Category M, 90p per item,increased rent and rates. minimum wage going up,pension contribution .staff training as retention of staff is a problem etc etc .
I am doing my Continued Professional Development on ‘ how to claim Tax Credit if your wages are not enough to live’
The DH is consulting with the PSNC and other bodies over the next three months, so please sign and share the e-petition to protect pharmacy funding.