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Community pharmacy

Up to 3,000 pharmacies could close after government cuts, MPs warn

The All Party Pharmacy Group has warned that as many as one in four pharmacies could close as a result of 6% funding cuts in 2016–2017.

Between 1,000 and 3,000 pharmacies could close in England as a result of government cuts to funding for pharmacy, said the PSNC. In the image, Alistair Burt, minister of state for community and social care.

Source: Department of Health

Alistair Burt, minister for community and social care, told the APPG that the government would not decide which pharmacies should close, but admitted that independents will be ‘squeezed’ 

Between 1,000 and 3,000 pharmacies — as many as one in four — could close in England as a result of government cuts to funding for pharmacy, the All Party Pharmacy Group (APPG) has warned.

A letter to the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) in December 2015 announced a 6% funding cut from £2.8bn in 2015–2016 to £2.63bn in 2016–2017, which will “take effect from October 2016, giving community pharmacies time to prepare”.

On 13 January 2016, the APPG met with Alistair Burt, minister for community and social care, and Jeannette Howe, head of pharmacy at the Department of Health, to discuss the cuts. At this meeting, Howe confirmed that there would be further reductions in future years.

After the meeting, APPG’s chair Sir Kevin Barron said: “Based on what we heard, that is not a one-off cut so there are implications for future years. We note from our meeting that phasing may be considered. But there is also much more to this picture than a cut in funding. There is a clear intention to reduce the number of pharmacies.”

The letter to the PSNC states: “In some parts of the country there are more pharmacies than are necessary to maintain good access. 40% of pharmacies are in a cluster where there are three or more pharmacies within ten minutes’ walk.

“The Department will separately consult on changing the Human Medicines Regulations 2012 (HMR 2012) to allow all pharmacies to access the efficiency created by ‘hub-and-spoke’ dispensing, with the aim of making this legislative change by October 2016. This could help pharmacies to lower their operating costs and free up pharmacists to provide more clinical services and public health services.”

Burt told the APPG meeting that the government would not decide which pharmacies should close. Pharmacies would need to decide whether they were “viable” in light of the change to the funding level. He admitted that independents will be “squeezed” and that this is a matter of concern for the government to look at.

“Warehouse dispensing, or ‘hub and spoke’, raises questions around safety, quality and access,” said Sir Kevin. “The supply of prescription medicines cannot be treated like buying clothes and DVDs. High quality, safe dispensing depends on the opportunity for a face-to-face discussion between the pharmacist and the patient. I don’t see how that can be done in a warehouse.”

Ian Strachan, chair of the National Pharmacy Association, says: “There is a flat and glaring contradiction in the Department of Health’s position: it calls for community pharmacy to be at the heart of the NHS, then tells us how it plans to wrench the heart out of the sector.

“We have to stand together and fight this every step of the way,” he adds. “The [December letter] refers to ‘clinical pharmacists’ in GP practices, in care homes and at the end of a phone line. Never once does it acknowledge that there is any clinical capability in the community pharmacy setting. That is a slur.”

Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal DOI: 10.1211/PJ.2016.20200553

Readers' comments (5)

  • DOH must be joking (clinical services and public health services); there is significant cuts to Public Health & what types of clinical services and public health services? the ones which are same as ten years old? & most of them are capped or have recently reduced funding. By the way, will DOH will pay for whole Pharmacy staff training costs for so called clinical services and public health services !!!

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  • In a time when we should be optimising the role of the community pharmacists, the government are going to cut numbers. Perhaps they should stop the rise in pharmacy university places? I was wondering how long pharmacy would have to wait for cuts.....

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  • If the DoH want to integrate community pharmacists into a more clinical pathway then we need assurances that the quality of pharmacists graduating from university are utilised with the skills in order to do the role the DoH has planned for community pharmacists. There needs to be integration of a Independent Prescribing, Clinical Skills and a pgClinDip into the programme. The GPhC will need to ensure that the degree programme is more rigourous and provides the pharmacists that are graduating with the skills they need to optimise medicines use. The role the DoH is asking community pharmacists to integrate into is more risky and the GPhC need to be satisfied that pharmacists are competent and effective and delivering these higher risk clinical services. This is an ample opportunity for the GPhC to negotiate with the government on powers to regulate pharmacists entering on the register and insuring that current registrants are skilled enough to be able to carry out the work.

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  • The warning that between 1000 and 3000 pharmacies could be shut down is a red herring. It is to make us accept the 6% funding cuts with little or no resistance!

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  • A 6 % funding cut will most likely be just the beginning. This country's healthcare system is being piece by piece taken apart, it is apparently now time for community pharmacy to take a blow. There is little explanation given for the reasoning behind these planned cuts and this puts patients at risk - which patients will have their independent community pharmacy "squeezed" into nonexistence? Will patients be pushed further away from seeking medical advice? Will the safety of medicines use be compromised? While pharmacy student numbers are high, the populations itself continues to grow larger and holds more elderly individuals than ever - meaning more patients likely to be on long term medications. Surely we should be aiming to enhance the role of the community pharmacist, rather than diminish it?

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  • Between 1,000 and 3,000 pharmacies could close in England as a result of government cuts to funding for pharmacy, said the PSNC. In the image, Alistair Burt, minister of state for community and social care.

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