Community Pharmacies

West Cornwall MP Derek Thomas has welcomed the news that the Government has put on hold plans to withdraw a £170 million subsidy to community pharmacies.

One in four of the 12,000 pharmacies around the UK was estimated to be at risk of closure from the proposal.

Mr Thomas helped to deliver a petition to Downing Street opposing the plans which was signed by more than two million people and he also led a debate in Westminster in February when he urged the Government to rethink the proposals.

Announcing the partial climb-down earlier this month, David Mowat, the community health and care minister, said: “It was our intention that these plans go ahead from October.

“We are not now going to be in a position to do that but I think it is right that we spend the time to make sure we are taking the right decision and that what we are doing is going to be right for the NHS and right for the public more generally.” The minister also promised to maintain an “ongoing dialogue” with the sector.

Mr Thomas said: “This is very encouraging news as I know that West Cornwall’s community pharmacists want to work with the Department of Health to improve services, engage in health and social care integration, improve drug waste reduction and improve access to records to support prescriptions.

“My plea to the Government has been: ‘Please don’t write pharmacy off until you have given them the resources to realise their full potential in society’.
“While reforms to NHS services are essential and the way community pharmacists are utilised needs to be reviewed, a blanket removal of funds to pharmacies will only hinder progress.”

Mr Thomas was alerted to the threat to pharmacies at the beginning of the year by Claire Field, manager of the Carbis Bay Pharmacy, who said: “This decision is a really good signal that we are being listened to and that the Government is not just ploughing on with their plans regardless.

“I met Derek in January when he said that he could see that taking pharmacies off the high street would not be a good thing and he has been very involved with the whole campaign.”

A recent report by PricewaterhouseCoopers highlighted the fact that community pharmacies contributed a net value of £3 billion to the NHS, public sector, patients and wider society in England in 2015, providing substantially more in benefits than they receive in compensation.

“The report shows that pharmacies are not just about dispensing – we offer over the counter advice, help with minor ailments, flu vaccines and managing long-term conditions,” Ms Field added.

“The Government is keen to optimise the use of our clinical skills and hopefully, the fact that the cuts have been delayed will give them the chance to consider how they can invest that money to make the best use of pharmacists.”

Mr Thomas was able to take advantage of the varied services that pharmacies provide when he visited the Carbis Bay Pharmacy last week and had his blood pressure checked in the ‘pressure station’ as part of ‘Know Your Numbers’ week.

Ms Field added: “High blood pressure has no symptoms so the only way to know if you are at risk from a stroke or heart disease is to have a blood pressure check.

“We took about 30 blood pressures in the first few days of Know Your Numbers week of which we have referred several for further monitoring while a couple had dangerously high blood pressure.”

CAPTION: MP Derek Thomas has his blood pressure checked by Claire Field, manager at the Carbis Bay Pharmacy