‘Essential small pharmacies’ are just that: essential

The disconnect between the words of politicians and NHS England and the reality on the ground is a chasm growing larger daily. Just look at how “essential small pharmacies” (which exist in areas where they are needed for patients, but where the level of business is otherwise too low for a pharmacy to be viable) are being treated.

The essential small pharmacy scheme will end on 31 March 2015 and, with it, these financially vulnerable pharmacies will lose their cash “top-up” from the NHS. Without the subsidy, most pharmacies will not be economically viable because they dispense low volumes of NHS prescriptions. Frustratingly, there is no gain in removing the top up. It will not save the NHS a penny because the funding comes from “top-slicing” the global pharmacy pot and is an insignificant 0.2% of total pharmacy funding. Yet most owners, like me, remain stuck in frustrating negotiations with local area teams.

Manor Pharmacy, an essential small pharmacy that I have owned for over ten years, is the only pharmacy in Elstree Village. It is a social asset at the heart of the community. We have the support of the local residents’ association (which have started a “save our pharmacy” petition). The local mayor, MP and GPs have written a letter of support to the NHS area team. Whatever happened to “no decision about me without me”?

The demand will not disappear if my pharmacy closes. It will spill over into local GP surgeries and emergency departments, including Watford General whose struggling A&E featured on BBC Panorama recently.

Bricks and mortar pharmacies are responsive to the needs of individuals and the local community. They offer highly personalised care. Socially, they provide a space for individuals to develop networks of trust and mutual support, particularly for older people who live alone and are often vulnerable. One cannot value a community pharmacy based on its prescription numbers alone.

Many essential pharmacies are located in deprived communities that already suffer the so-called “inverse care law”, which states that those who need health and social care the most actually receive the least.

NHS England must consider and confirm its position on each essential small pharmacy without further delay to minimise the impact on patients and the public. Essential small pharmacies represent huge social capital. To take this away from the local community would be an act of vandalism.


Graham Phillips

Superintendent Pharmacist

Manor Pharmacy Group


Last updated
The Pharmaceutical Journal, PJ, 4/11 April 2015, Vol 294, No 7856/7;294(7856/7):DOI:10.1211/PJ.2015.20068173

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