The Welsh health minister has written to the country’s largest community pharmacy providers with concerns over proposals to introduce prescription delivery charges.
In answer to a written question, Vaughan Gething said plans to charge patients “who would have difficulty in collecting their prescriptions from the pharmacy” for the home delivery of their medicines is “deplorable”.
He added that the move is “driven by UK government cuts to the sector in England”, with the delivery charges “applied without regard to the continued investment we are making in Wales”.
In April 2019, Gething committed to increasing the amount of funding for community pharmacy by £1.4m in 2018/2019. Funding for the sector in England has been frozen at £2.59bn for the next five years.
As a result, Gething said he had written to “the largest four community pharmacy groups to ask how they intend to avoid the obvious negative consequences of their decisions on patients”.
Well Pharmacy, LloydsPharmacy and Rowlands have all confirmed to The Pharmaceutical Journal that they have received a copy of the letter.
Although pharmacies are independent businesses, with guidance on delivery charges lying outside of the government’s remit, Gething said he was “deeply disappointed” in the decisions, adding that prescription delivery charges “will inevitably impact on our most vulnerable citizens”.
Gething added that he is considering “what steps might be taken to secure continuation of free deliveries for vulnerable patients in Wales as part of ongoing reform of the community pharmacy contractual framework”.
Janice Perkins, superintendent at Well Pharmacy, said in her response to Gething that it “does not currently levy any charges to patients who use this service”, but added that “this decision may change in the future”.
Margaret MacRury, superintendent pharmacist director at Rowlands, said in her response to the minister that the multiple provides “a free needs-based home-delivery service for those who are housebound and cannot rely on someone … to pick up medication on their behalf”, having stopped providing free home deliveries to all patients in August 2019.
“I appreciate that there are contractual and funding differences between Wales, England and Scotland,” she added. “Nonetheless, in each country we are facing unprecedented financial pressures which require us to review on a country-by-country basis how we make our business commercially sustainable and continue to provide excellent patient care.”
A spokesperson for LloydsPharmacy said the company had “no plans to introduce charges for our home-delivery service in Wales”.
The Pharmaceutical Journal has approached Boots for comment.