Funding cuts threaten vital pharmacy service

November 08 2016

A PHARMACIST has warned that funding cuts could have devastating consequences on elderly and housebound people living in and around Longwell Green.

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A PHARMACIST has warned that funding cuts could have devastating consequences on elderly and housebound people living in and around Longwell Green.

Jess Williams, who runs Ellacombe Pharmacy in Ellacombe Road, is concerned about government proposals to reduce funding by 12 per cent from December.

Pharmacies receive around 90 per cent of their income from money the government pays for dispensing prescriptions.

As a business, Ellacombe Pharmacy, which has been serving the community for more than 30 years, says it will have to consider the withdrawal of services to housebound or elderly patients that it currently provides for free. 

Jess said: "This is an area where a lot of people rely on this service. Some people actually look forward to seeing our delivery driver because sometimes he or she is the only person they see all week.

"The funding cuts will mean it will be a squeeze to try and deliver to our elderly and housebound patients.

“My chief worry is that I will have to close and I expect  this same risk applies to many pharmacies. As a small independent business we don’t have the financial flexibility to adapt. We need the support of our communities to fight this and to ensure our survival.

"For a local independent community pharmacy like ours, the cuts possess a real threat or, at the very least, the need to reduce our services and our staff hours."

Longwell Green resident Mary Warner has worked at the pharmacy for 14 years. She said: "Ellacombe Pharmacy is not just a shop but an integral part of the small community that is Longwell Green.

"Customers are always treated as friends and most are known by name to us all. A great number who come to the shop are elderly and have no transport to go further afield. They are provided with a necessary service and the pharmacy fulfils a genuine need. Our delivery service is a lifeline to many.

"As a long standing business in Longwell Green, we have seen children become parents who now bring their children to us for medical advice, which is freely and cheerfully given."

Negotiations about payments to pharmacies have been taking place over the last year and plans for a £170m cut to the pharmacy budget this year were delayed after 2m people signed a petition opposing the change. 

The government has announced that the cuts will be imposed on pharmacies across England from December 1, 2016. 

More than 1.5 million people visit pharmacies every day, seeking advice, medication and treatment. 

Funding will fall from £2.8bn to £2.63bn as part of a drive to find £22bn of savings across the NHS by 2020. This will be followed with further cuts in 2017/18 which would take funding down to £2.59 billion.

Jess said the government's timing was particularly bad.

"After a lot of rhetoric about how pharmacies should help relieve pressure on the NHS, the government is asking us to scale back in December when the winter pressures are greatest.

"As a pharmacy fully committed to meeting the local needs in our community, this is a real slap in the face."

A Department for Health spokesman said it is investing £112m to put 1,500 pharmacists in GP surgeries but many independent pharmacies provide an accessible medical service, open for long hours and at weekends. 

The ongoing petition against the cuts can be found by visiting: https://speakout.38degrees.org.uk/campaigns/1478