The government has served notice of funding withdrawal to pharmacies which will lead to a cull of approximately 18 pharmacies within Croydon. Leading Pharmacist, Andrew McCoig, spells out the impact that these cuts are likely to have in other areas of health and social care and, most importantly, the impact on patients:
"Croydon has 74 Community Pharmacies serving the population of the borough. The ownership varies from large corporate organisations to single handed individual proprietor Pharmacists, supported by locally employed staff. As you are aware, their most important function is to deliver NHS funded services to their local patients and customers together with all the locally commissioned services and the London wide Flu vaccination service.
As the Chief Executive Officer of two Pharmacy representative committees covering the four boroughs of Sutton, Merton, Wandsworth and Croydon, I speak for a total of 219 contracted NHS Pharmacies upon which the Government has served notice of funding withdrawal. The NHS executive has determined that £170million will be withdrawn from the national contract sum for 2016/17 and this equates to £27million lost from London pharmacies and, by extrapolation, £1.11million from Croydon contractors in the first year alone. (approximately £15,000 per pharmacy).
Their stated intention is to transform the way Pharmacies operate across the country and the catalyst to that change is to deliver a blunt financial trauma to the entire funding system. The suggested changes to the way pharmacies deliver their services will require substantial investment in time for negotiation and a complete remodelling of the pharmacy network. They have given us until 24th March 2016 to complete any consultation. Their proposals are incoherent, ignore basic truths about the way the network is established and present us with a “non-negotiable” funding cut. The dramatic effect that the funding cuts will extract from the current social capital and community asset of the existing pharmacy network will become obvious in a very short time frame. All pharmacies face fixed costs as with any other high street enterprise, so the immediate effect will be staff reductions, and for those on high fixed costs, closure.
They claim that there are too many pharmacies across the UK. Legislation brought in some years ago recognised that patients would benefit from choice and competition and we have seen a rise in pharmacy numbers (2,000) in the last decade. Now their plans appear to want a reduction of 400 Pharmacies in London alone thereby reducing the choice patients have at present, and forcing those pharmacies that remain open to cope with a resulting increase of work pressure. If the same closure rate occurs in Croydon, we are looking at a cull of approximately 18 Pharmacies within the borough boundaries.
Our overriding concern is for the patients the current Pharmacy network serves and supports. The impact of these cuts, and consequential closures, goes far wider than dispensing medicines. All other services may fall victim to such a network contraction combined with fewer staff within each pharmacy. Should staffing be reduced and closures occur, GPs will simply not be able to cope with the increase in appointments particularly for minor illnesses and prescription related queries. What will also be lost is the “unseen” support all pharmacies give to their patients and customers. Our national organisations are preparing a database of such instances of social care and locality support so that those with authority in Health & Social Care are made aware of the extent of the help Pharmacies and their staff give to their communities. The LPC know that you are both well aware of the extent of the support the Croydon network gives to the borough through our shared Public Health agenda and commissioning.
The Government is on recent record urging people to use Pharmacies as an alternative to Accident & Emergency departments as well as GP surgeries. I am therefore writing this today so that you are made aware of the burden that these peremptory funding cuts will place on other areas of the health and social care network once pharmacy services start to reduce and contract. The political fallout will be widespread and considerable.
source andrew mccoig 04.02.16