Funding cuts could be implemented within weeks
Pharmacy leaders today warned the government against backsliding on its promises, when it emerged that the Department of Health could implement cuts to pharmacy funding within weeks â€“ having earlier promised a re-think.
A letter sent this week by Department of Health officials to pharmacy stakeholders states that, after a brief spell of negotiations, a package will be announced in mid-October. Implementation will begin from December.
Yet little more than a week ago, new Pharmacy Minister David Mowat announced he was putting on hold cuts to pharmacies in England and related efficiency measures. He told delegates at the Royal Pharmaceutical Society conference in Birmingham that he would â€œtake time to make the correct decisionâ€ and would have an ongoing dialogue with the sector about the way forward.
NPA chairman Ian Strachan said:Â â€œIn what sense is a short stay of execution â€˜taking the time to make the right decisionâ€™? How is a few weeksâ€™ notice adequate time for the pharmacy sector to prepare for the changes? And in what sense is a brief negotiation behind closed doors the ongoing dialogue we were promised just days ago?
â€œWe urge the minister to be true to his word. He should take the time to get things right for the sector, right for the NHS and right for patients and communities. He should open a genuine dialogue with the sector about the way forward. To be meaningful, such dialogue must be based on genuinely fresh thinking â€“ it would make no sense to take as a starting point the discredited and universally unpopular proposals of December 2015.
â€œIt will do the Minister great credit to pause and reflect, and not simply wave through the discredited policy proposals he inherited. A genuine and informed review is required.
â€œTo proceed in the hurried manner now suggested would be a flat contradiction of the Governmentâ€™s promises just days ago. It would be dishonest, because the Minister would be going back on his word. It would be intolerable to the millions of patients who oppose the cuts, and disrespectful to our profession because of the lack of time to prepare. Whatâ€™s more it would be illogical, at a time when GPs and hospitals are so under pressure, to diminish this vital front line service.
â€œWe are writing to the Health Secretary and his Ministers, asking for their urgent assurances on this matter.â€
Sue Sharpe, Chief Executive of PSNC, said:Â â€œWe are looking to the government to take a new approach, informed by evidence of the value of the sector to the communities we support. Community pharmacy is willing to develop its service to meet future needs, and we need the government to abandon the ill-informed and damaging proposals.â€