Pharmacy closures are not in the interests of patients or the public

Despite almost a year of protests and the 2.2 million people who signed a petition against funding cuts to community pharmacy, the government has decided to go ahead. The truth is it had already made the decision, has never engaged meaningfully in any consultation and is now intent on window dressing the consequences, both intended and not. So I want to alert readers to the effect this will have locally in my part of Hertfordshire.

Be under no illusion, all pharmacies will be suffering cuts in their funding. In the case of so-called “protected” pharmacies (i.e. those who qualify for the pharmacy access scheme), the funding cut, while painful, will be survivable for most. But those pharmacies that are not protected will suffer a 16% cut from December 2016 and a further cut of around 8% from April 2017.

In Harpenden main town there is more than one pharmacy and they are not protected because the government regards this as over-provision.

Now, there are three GP surgeries in Harpenden, but no one (least of all me) would dare suggest that this is over-provision. Just as we need that number of surgeries to support the large patient population, we surely need more than one pharmacy for exactly the same reasons. But the cut will be indiscriminate, across the board and irrespective of the quality of service offered or patient choice.

Large multiples, supermarkets, etc, will not close because they are not significantly reliant on NHS funding for their business model. So it will be the independent pharmacies, like mine, that will close. Up to 90% of our income comes from the NHS: from dispensing of prescriptions and other services such as smoking cessation, etc. So it is inevitable that we will lose many independent pharmacies in Harpenden and throughout England.

In Southdown there is only one pharmacy, which I own. Those who know Southdown will agree that it is a substantial and separate population from Harpenden main town. But because Southdown is marginally within the arbitrary 1 mile limit (i.e. less than 1 mile from Harpenden main town) the pharmacy is not protected. There is no GP surgery in Southdown so surely that makes the presence of a pharmacy all the more important.

I was about to sign a new lease on the pharmacy but I obviously will not now and the pharmacy will close early in 2017. The only way to keep it open will be to lobby for it to be designated as “protected”.

David Mowat, the pharmacy minister, made two specific promises in parliament, that no population will be left without a pharmacy and that no one will have to walk more than “a few tens of metres” further to collect a prescription. Clearly, when the Southdown pharmacy closes, neither of these promises will be fulfilled.

Graham Phillips



Last updated
The Pharmaceutical Journal, PJ, November 2016, Vol 297, No 7895;297(7895):DOI:10.1211/PJ.2016.20201891

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