The Government announced last week that it would be pushing forward with dramatic cuts to community pharmacies. This represents a 12% reduction on current funding levels for the rest of the 2015-16 financial year and a 7% cut next year. It is astonishing for the Government to cut these vital community pharmacies’ budgets in this financial year – and by such an astonishing level.
Almost no consultation has been carried out and these changes are being imposed against the recommendations of pharmacies and communities affected. It has been estimated that, if these cuts go ahead, 18 pharmacies in Southwark could be at risk of closing.
This issue is a big problem in Southwark and over 500 local people have been in touch who are concerned about the affect this will have on them and our local community. I’ve also visited several local pharmacies and met with representatives from Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee and many owners and managers of local pharmacies to discuss the impact of Government cuts. Their main concern was over lack of provision the Government seemed to be putting in place for when crucial services would be hit – and the long-term effect on other NHS budgets.
Last week I was very proud to open the new St George’s Pharmacy. Atul, the owner, spoke frankly with me about his concerns regarding this legislation and stressed that ‘the reduction of funds for services provided by my pharmacy will have a major impact on the availability of everyday healthcare services, which vulnerable patients such as the elderly, the young and those with mental health issues, rely on.’ I raised his and other local concerns in today’s debate.
Pharmacies already go above and beyond their duty in what they offer customers with out of hours free prescription deliveries to the elderly and vulnerable; smoking and alcohol services; vaccinations; and brilliant customer service and advice. Many now feel disillusioned and let down by this Government who have threatened their survival rather than recognise their contribution to people’s health and well-being.