During January I held 'high street' drop in surgeries and a pharmacist, Claire Field, from St Ives, explained to me the potential impact on independent community pharmacists of changes to the funding arrangements for community pharmacy provision.
The Department of Health wrote to Community Pharmacists in December about the potential for far greater use of community pharmacies and pharmacists. The letter refers to the role of community pharmacists in prevention of health; support for healthy living; support for self-care for minor ailments and long-term conditions; medication reviews in care homes; and as part of more integrated local care models.
This is exactly the right direction as we work to integrate health and social care, I see the community pharmacist as an essential player in a new NHS equipped to meet the demands that modern society places on it.
However, in the same letter the Department set out its plan to reduce its funding commitment for Community Pharmacies by £170 million.
Herein lies the problem. We have a frontline NHS service valued and depended upon, able to embrace new clinical responsibilities, able to meet the demands of an ageing population, but unsure about their future and unclear about what support they can expect from the Government. The letter sets out the £170 million reduction in support for community pharmacies, asks them to prepare for the cut, but gives little detail about where the money will be cut, who will lose and what services can no longer be funded.
Reform to Community Pharmacies is not something we can afford to get wrong. In my constituency many of the Community Pharmacists are independent businesses that have been established for decades. A wrong move by the Government now may make these community resources unviable.
One constituent, a retired doctor, Professor John Dancy, wrote to me as follows:
“I am a warm supporter of Nigel, our local pharmacist (Newlyn) and proud to be so. He is always ready to help when I forget (as one does at the age of 95) to re-order a medicament, and when my doctor is unavailable, or just pushed for time, I do not hesitate to ask Nigel for advice, which I follow with a confidence that is always rewarded.”
Community Pharmacists are highly trained and trusted Healthcare professionals, qualified to Master level and beyond. Their knowledge base covers far more than drugs alone, making them ideal health care professionals to relieve pressures on GPs and other areas of the NHS.
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.
The future of independent community pharmacists is very important to me and I led a debate in Parliament and asked the Government what assurances it can give to independent community pharmacists in rural areas and what consultation has been conducted with Pharmacy patients and what their concerns would be if Community pharmacies where to close.
My personal plea to the Government: 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.
photo: Carbis Bay Community Pharmacy with staff, patients and Cllr Penhaligon.
Westminster Hall Debate - 23rd February 2016
"That this House has considered community pharmacies.
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Streeter. In a letter to community pharmacies on 17 December, the Department of Health discussed the potential for far greater use of community pharmacies and pharmacists. The letter refers to the role of community pharmacists in preventive health, support for healthy living, support for self-care for minor ailments and long-term conditions and medication reviews in care homes, and as part of a more integrated local care model. That is exactly the right direction. As an MP representing a Cornish seat where every effort is being made to integrate health and social care, I see community pharmacists as essential players in a new national health service equipped to meet the demands placed on it by modern society.
Westminster Hall debates are rarely secured in order to praise the Government and celebrate all that is good. I would love to be able to do so, but—wait for it—in the same letter to which I just referred, the Department set out its plans to reduce its funding commitment to community pharmacists by £170 million. Therein lies the problem. We have a front-line NHS service that is valued and depended on and able to embrace new clinical responsibilities and meet the demands of an ageing population, but it is unsure about its future."
More information at http://www.theyworkforyou.com/whall/?id=2016-02-23b.36.1&s=speaker%3A25440#g36.4