The Government have announced reductions in funding of more than 6% (£168 million) to Pharmacies, which is expected to take effect from October 2016. The Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee said the cuts represent a "financial blow to community pharmacy", and described the decision by the Department of Health to publish the letter as "unprecedented", and in "stark contrast to the secrecy that the NHS has always insisted on for negotiations in the past." Barry sets out his position below.
Pharmacies are vital to the fabric of our communities, and these services address people’s needs in ways which the government seems to underestimate. They have a significant impact on patient care and assist GP surgeries by helping patients to further understand their medications. The growing reliance on pharmacies translates into increasing volumes of prescription and patient demands, and testifies to the importance that pharmacies hold in community life.
Regrettably, it appears that the Government does not seem to place the same importance on pharmacies. The Government are intending to cut funding for community pharmacies by a minimum of 6%. This is in addition to the cuts of 6.2% to public health services, undermining the provision of basic health needs in local communities by £200 million.
The consequences of these cuts to the health service have already been felt by many patients in England. The number of patients with mental health issues attempting to commit suicide has increased by 26%. Patients in serious pain are being denied drugs and clinicians and hospital services are closed or reduced, when demand for public health provision in an ageing society increases. I know that the National Pharmacy Association (NPA) has expressed its concerns that Government cuts may severely harm pharmacies’ ability to deliver in the face of increasing and ever more complex health challenges. The Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC), the body which represents all community pharmacies providing services in England, has said almost inevitably the impact of the cuts will force pharmacies to reduce staffing levels and direct more people to GPs or urgent care.
Minister for Community and Social Care Alistair Burt has stated that he estimates that up to a quarter of pharmacies could close as a result of these cuts with smaller, independent pharmacies the most likely to be affected. This amounts to nothing less than a full-on assault both on local pharmacies and more widely on the NHS.