Barnet’s Conservative councillors have put themselves at odds with the pharmacy profession and patients by supporting a Government proposal to cut the funding of community pharmacies by 6 per cent which could have a ‘devastating impact’ on patient care.
They voted down a Labour motion to the Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee which expressed concern at the planned £170 million cutback to overall NHS funding of pharmacies next year. It urged the Government to continue talks with the pharmacy profession to find efficiency savings which would not lead to the feared closure of many local pharmacies.
Smaller pharmacies are dependent on NHS funding, including an establishment grant and a fee for every prescription issued, but the Government wants to phase out the grant and encourage online ordering of prescriptions which will favour the big chains such as Boots. It also wants to move pharmacists into GP surgeries and care homes.
Gerald Alexander represents 78 pharmacies in Barnet as Chair of the Barnet, Enfield and Haringey Local Pharmaceutical Committee and said the cuts would impact heavily on community pharmacies. He said: “Closures of pharmacies could be devastating for patients and those pharmacies providing quality patient care. It will undermine the Government’s stated aim of developing their role to put pharmacy at the heart of the NHS.”
Brian Isaacs who manages the Brand Russell Pharmacy in East Barnet Village, believes pharmacies are ideally placed to reduce the GP workload, as they offer easy access with no appointment, minor ailment treatments and influenza vaccinations. “The public want pharmacies, they make 6 million visits a day to them - are the Government willing to risk the fabric of this highly qualified but underused resource?” he said.
A petition against the proposed six per cent cut in pharmacy funding has reached around 1.4 million signatures, making it one of the largest petitions ever circulated in the UK. It will be delivered to the Prime Minister at Downing Street on 24 May at the end of the consultation on the plans.
Labour’s Health Spokesperson Cllr Philip Cohen said, “I put forward a motion which I hoped all members of the committee could support which raised concern about possible closures but suggested that pharmacies could make efficiency savings in other ways. What concerns me about the Government’s proposals is that they may damage that vital relationship between the pharmacist and patients which is so important in our local communities.”
1. For a copy of Cllr Cohen’s Member’s Item on Community Pharmacies see: http://barnet.moderngov.co.uk/documents/s31708/Members%20Item%20-%20Cllr%20Philip%20Cohen.pdf
2. The text of Cllr Cohen’s motion follows:
"This committee wishes to express its concern that the reduction in the overall funding package for pharmacies in 2016-17 could lead to the closure of community pharmacies in Barnet and elsewhere. It agrees that while pharmacies perform a valuable public service and are well placed to reduce the workload of GPs and A&E departments, they can be more efficient in prescribing, customer access and in working more closely with GPs and care homes. The committee would wish the Government to have further discussions with the Pharmacy profession to find other ways to make efficiency savings while protecting existing payments to pharmacies."
3. For details of the petition against the cuts see: http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2016/may/01/petition-against-pharmacy-closures-gets-a-million-signatures
For more information contact Cllr Phil Cohen: firstname.lastname@example.org
To contact the Barnet Labour Group: 020 8359 2568