English Pharmacy Board chair Sandra Gidley has said if community pharmacies are to close as funding continues to tighten, there should be planned rather than random closures.
Striking a similar theme to that of the PSNC, whose members agreed during a two-day planning meeting in Birmingham last month that a planned reduction programme was preferable to what it described as “funding attrition,” Gidley (pictured) said planned closures were the better option although she challenged the government to show evidence that there are too many pharmacies.
“We don’t want to see community pharmacies closing but if they do happen, they do need to be planned rather than random. The government needs to provide evidence that there are too many community pharmacies,” she told ICP.
“It’s vital that the development of clinical services and how community pharmacy can take pressure off GPs and other areas of primary care are part of the conversation, otherwise they will be shooting themselves in the foot.”
PSNC members came to a consensus in November that “if patient needs and NHS ambitions for pharmacy indicate that a reduction in the number of pharmacies is unavoidable, then a planned reduction programme would be better than using funding attrition to reduce pharmacy numbers.”
The PSNC’s report of that meeting, which warned that “current funding levels shared between the existing number of pharmacies is not sustainable,” also revealed that members agreed work was needed to facilitate local mergers of pharmacies “to protect as many pharmacy contractors as possible.”
Discussions revolved around three areas, including how the PSNC can support local pharmaceutical committees, how community pharmacy can benefit from technology and what a future funding model might look like.
The PSNC stressed it was keen to “maintain a network of fully funded community pharmacies” and would try to secure a multi-year settlement.
Reacting to PSNC members’ preference for a planned reduction programme rather than closures brought about by “funding attrition,” a National Pharmacy Association spokesperson told ICP: “We recognise the need to consider a range of options but we are committed to developing the community pharmacy offering which includes immediate and free access to trusted medical advice.
“Unlike some other areas of the NHS, pharmacies actually have relatively more provision in poorer areas than more wealthy areas and provide vital services in communities right across the country, especially the most deprived neighbourhoods.
“Patients have been cushioned from the difficulties facing the NHS by the hard work and dedication of community pharmacists who continue to provide optimum service despite the severe financial strains they face.
“Even in these difficult circumstances pharmacists will put the needs of patients first, as they always do.”