Grassroots pharmacy staff, managers and owners fear that government plans to slash 6% from the national pharmacy budget in England will trigger staff cuts and threaten the free prescription collection and delivery service that many pharmacies offer, according to the results of a survey.
The survey, organised by Leicester-based community pharmacists Altaf Vaiya and Luvjit Kandula, attracted responses from 255 pharmacy managers, owners and their staff.
Some 79% of respondents highlighted staff cuts as a potential consequence of the planned cuts, which will be implemented from October 2016, while 77% of respondents warned they would reduce patient access to a pharmacy. A total of 70% thought the proposals would result in longer waits to see a GP. Removal of free delivery services was highlighted by 77% of respondents, and 66% thought that services to care homes would be reduced.
The number of medicines use reviews carried out by pharmacists was also likely to drop, according to 51% of respondents, and public health services, such as stop smoking support, provision of emergency hormonal contraception and chlamydia screening were also threatened, 53% of respondents warned.
Pharmacy minor ailments services and pharmacy provision of emergency repeat prescriptions were also likely to be cut if the proposals go ahead, according to 52% of those questioned. Another 66% warned that patients would have to wait longer for their prescriptions to be dispensed.
The survey data suggest that 96% of respondents were aware of information about the proposed cuts published by the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee in December 2015, and 94% reported that they were familiar with the information released by the Department of Health.
The online survey, which took place between 31 December 2015 and 21 February 2016, was initiated in order to gather the views of ordinary pharmacists and share them with national negotiators and other pharmacy organisations.
“I wanted to give the pharmacy community a chance to air their views and share their thinking,” says Vaiya. “It started when I was talking to other pharmacists who felt that there was no way for them to vent their opinions about the cuts.”