Funding cuts risk to patients

John Sergeant, chairman of Community Pharmacy Derbyshire
John Sergeant, chairman of Community Pharmacy Derbyshire

Community pharmacists in Derbyshire have warned that services to patients are likely to suffer because of major government funding cuts.

The national NHS budget for community pharmacy is to shrink by £170m next year (a reduction of six per cent) – with further cuts expected beyond that.

The Department of Health has indicated that many community pharmacies are too close together and it expects some to shut as a result of the funding reductions.

It’s feared that the impact on Derbyshire’s 217 community pharmacies will be significant. Many serve isolated communities in rural areas.

John Sargeant, chairman of Community Pharmacy Derbyshire, which represents all the county’s pharmacists, said: “This is a profoundly damaging move, at a time when the Government itself recognises the important role of pharmacy as the NHS struggles to cope.

“It will deliver a destructive blow to the support community pharmacies can offer to patients and the public.

“We provide vital healthcare and advice which reduces the burden on GPs and urgent care services and helps the NHS to deal with winter pressures.”

Community pharmacies are paid by the NHS to dispense prescriptions and deliver a range of other essential services, including flu jabs and working with patients to ensure they have the right medicines and know how to take them. Some services are also commissioned by local councils.

Increasingly, the NHS has encouraged people to go to their local pharmacy for advice about healthy living and help with minor ailments in order to relieve pressures on GPs and emergency services.

Mr Sargeant added: “Pharmacies are businesses. If income falls, they can only survive by cutting costs. That could mean job losses, opening for fewer hours or cutting some services. 
“If pharmacies still remain unviable, they will face closure.”