Proposed Cuts to Pharmacy Services

Proposed cuts in government support funding could have severe effects on the services offered by community pharmacies in Buckinghamshire, including the possibility of up to 20 pharmacies (out of 97) around the county closing completely.

That’s the grim picture presented to Buckinghamshire County Council’s Health and Adult Social Care Select Committee (HASC) on Tuesday 10th May by the Chief Officer of Buckinghamshire Local Pharmaceutical Committee and representatives of local community pharmacies.

Community pharmacies (those run outside of NHS premises) are key to strategic planning for health and adult social care in Buckinghamshire, as they offer an accessible local alternative to visiting a GP or using the 111 service, with trained health expertise on hand, often until late in the evening. For some, especially the county’s more vulnerable residents and for those in rural areas, pharmacies can prevent a trip to A&E.

These pharmacies also provide easy local access to flu vaccination, emergency contraception, chlamydia testing and smoking cessation services.

With a reduction of £170 million in the funding for community pharmacies planned by the Department of Health to hit nationally in October 2016, this amounts to a 6% reduction in funding across the board. And with some small pharmacies relying on NHS funding for up to 90% of their income, this could mean that their business can no longer survive. Others may have to shed jobs and offer less services.

After hearing the evidence and the opinions of members, the consensus of the HASC was to compose a response to the current government consultation on the issue that ends on 25 May. The response will set out the Committee’s deep concern about the probable effects of the cuts, which will disproportionally effect residents in rural areas within the county.

Angela Macpherson, Chairman of the HASC, said: “I’m most concerned by this. It looks like a hugely short-sighted cut, being an essential service that is seen by many – nationally as well as locally – as part of the solution to the increasing cost of health and adult social care, rather than as part of the problem.

“If this goes ahead, it is likely to have an impact on our more vulnerable residents, and it will certainly add to the workload of our GPs and adult social care services.”