Recently I placed on this web site information that indicated that the Government has more plans to cut services in the National Health Service with the announcement just before Christmas that they are going to reduce funding for Pharmacies.
I know that some local Independent Pharmacies have major concerns about Government policy because they have told me so!
On 17th December 2015 the Government announced a number of plans for community pharmacy. The proposals included a £170m reduction in funding for community pharmacy in 2016/17. Since publication of that letter it has also become clear that as many as 3,000 pharmacies may close, that key payments for pharmacies will be phased out, and that there may be a drive towards a commoditised medicines supply service with an increased focus on warehouse dispensing and online services.
Councillor Phil Bateman went onto say that “ I informed my constituents that I shall be writing to the Director of Public Health to see if these Government plans pose a threat to Local Pharmacies in the City of Wolverhampton. He went onto say “The national pharmacy organisations believe the proposals pose significant threats to both the community pharmacy network and patient care, and we are working together to seek support.
Pharmacies are a valuable and valued resource
* People in England make 1.6 million visits to community pharmacies every day.
* As well as dispensing medicines community pharmacy teams help people to stay well and out of the GP’s surgery, to get the most benefit from their medicines, and to manage their health conditions.
* Pharmacies are easy to access and form part of the fabric of local communities. Pharmacy teams regularly go the extra mile for patients, the public and the NHS
* The NHS spends £2bn per year on GP consultations for conditions which pharmacy teams could treat.ii
* 96% of the population can reach a pharmacy within 20 minutes by walking or using public transport.
* More than 1 billion prescription items are dispensed by community pharmacies every year.
* Pharmacies delivered more than 3.17 million medicines use reviews to help people to understand and take their medicines correctly in 2014/15.
* Community pharmacies help us to stay well and prevent unnecessary visit to the GP’s surgery and A&E. For example, pharmacy services supporting frail elderly people after hospital discharge have reduced re-admittance by 63%.iii
* Community pharmacy can and should do much more. A community pharmacy minor ailments service could save the NHS £1bn per year through reduced GP appointments.
The Government’s plans threaten patients’ access to pharmacies and pharmacy services.
Councillor Phil Bateman added ” The Government wants pharmacies to close. The Health Minister has suggested that up to 3,000 pharmacies – a quarter of pharmacies in England – could be forced to close under its plans.
The Government says it wants a ‘clinically-focused’ community pharmacy service and to optimise the use of medicines.
The network underpinning the supply of medicines is complex and fragile. The Government has proposed a blanket cut in funding that will have unpredictable consequences.”
I do hope our Member of Parliament will do as much as she can to challenge the Government on these issues which surround the funding of Local Pharmacies. I shall be writing to the Director of Public Health to see if these Government plans pose a threat to Local Pharmacies in the City of Wolverhampton.”
I did suggest that I would write to the Director of Public Health to find out what Wolverhamptons Chief Officers view is with regard to the threat. Here is the response I have received from Public Health Director Ros Jervis. Here is an extract from her correspondence to me.
“Community pharmacy teams have a valuable role in providing services and contribute to the provision of excellent healthcare to the residents of the City of Wolverhampton.
For many years Wolverhampton Public Health have commissioned services from pharmacies that make a real difference to the health of local communities and also ease the burden on GP practices and hospital emergency departments.
We are concerned with the recent announcement made by the Department of Health (DH) in relation to the proposed funding cuts for community pharmacy in 2016/17. DH predictions suggest up to a quarter of pharmacies could close. Whilst it is unclear if that is the picture that would be seen in Wolverhampton it may put certain services offered to patients at risk.
Studies have shown that community pharmacists are the most accessible healthcare professional to the majority of the population, and accessibility is greatest in areas of high deprivation. Closing pharmacies may widen health inequalities in the most deprived areas.
Adoption of online services from the community pharmacy network will see great benefits for some patients, although the numbers of local community pharmacies may reduce access to services for some groups, potentially the most vulnerable.
Community pharmacies support the residents of Wolverhampton with services such as Flu Vaccinations, Stop Smoking Services and Medicines Use Reviews. Hence any threat to the pharmacy network has the potential to reduce such services which may impact vulnerable groups.”
Councillor Phil Bateman said “ I take it from that reply that there is concerns with the Government policy, and that the Pharmacies have every right to be also concerned about where the policy is going. Again I make the plea that our Local MP’s should be made aware of the threat. That Local Pharmacies should do more to ensure that there concerns and fears are better communicated to Local Councillors and of course the patients that rely heavily on Local Services.
Losing a Local Pharmacy to some patients will be as equally upsetting as losing some other valid NHS service like local hospitals.”