We also want to know whether there will be compensation for those who exit
The government expects up to 3,000 pharmacies to close as a result of its recently announced 6 per cent funding cut.
Pharmacy minister Alistair Burt told a meeting of the All-Party Pharmacy Group on January 13 that he expected between 1,000 and 3,000 pharmacies to close, although "much would depend on the response of the multiples". He expected the multiples to have more resilience and that independents would be more likely to be "squeezed", although the government would consider how to help small independents and those wanting to retire or exit.
In a statement on the APPG website posted after the meeting, its chair Sir Kevin Barron said the government's proposals were about more than October's 6 per cent funding cut. "Based on what we heard, that is not a one-off cut so there are implications for future years. We note from our meeting that phasing may be considered. But there is also much more to this picture than a cut in funding.
"There is a clear intention to reduce the number of pharmacies. We don’t yet know how that will be done but closures must not reduce access or quality. We also want to know whether there will be compensation for those who exit.
"Warehouse dispensing, or ‘hub and spoke’, raises questions around safety, quality and access. The supply of prescription medicines cannot be treated like buying clothes and DVDs. High quality, safe dispensing depends on the opportunity for a face-to-face discussion between the pharmacist and the patient. I don’t see how that can be done in a warehouse.
"We have long been calling for more services to be commissioned from pharmacies. It is difficult to see how it will be achieved against the background of cuts in funding. The Pharmacy Integration Fund is only a modest £20 million next year. It is dwarfed by the scale of funding cuts.
"We also need to know much more about how those pharmacists who are based in GP practices will interact with those in community pharmacies and how roles will be defined. As we’ve said before, we do not want to see duplication or turf warfare. Clarity is essential.
"The letter and our meeting with the Minister has a major bearing on our inquiry into pharmacy in primary care. I am pleased that the Minister has agreed to meet us for a question and answer session, together with the Chief Pharmaceutical Officer, and we may invite other officials. We will pursue all these matters in more detail at that session.”