New NHS cuts put ‘vulnerable’ at risk

PUBLISHED: 10:00 06 June 2016

Margaret Hook.

Margaret Hook.

Archant

A North Somerset pharmacist has hit out at ‘appalling’ Government plans which could close a quarter of the district’s branches and cause 
disabled and vulnerable patients to ‘lose out’.

The Government has announced £170million of cuts to the sector, saying pharmacies are ‘too close together’.

Campaign group Pharmacy Voice has condemned the plans, which it says puts 10 surgeries at risk of closure in the district.

Margaret Hook, who runs Banwell Pharmacy, told the Mercury staff have been ‘left in the dark’ about how the cuts will affect them.

She said: “We are very concerned that pharmacies are continuing to be used as a way to cut costs. Whatever we say – they won’t change their mind. It really is quite appalling. What we are really concerned about is that there is no real incentive for community pharmacists to provide an outstanding service – we don’t get the recognition for better care.

“The worst part is no-one knows what is happening. But it feels like the independents would literally be pushed away. We are totally in the dark.”

A spokesman for Pharmacy Voice told the Mercury pharmacies are ‘vital’ for North Somerset.

They said: “With the pharmacy funding cuts, it could mean more than 10 pharmacies no longer being viable. Pharmacies are the most accessible healthcare location and can be a vital lifeline to vulnerable people.

“Close to one in five residents is disabled or has a limiting long-term condition. These people are the ones who will lose out, as they will likely rely on dedicated pharmacy teams for medicines and no-appointment necessary healthcare advice.”

The Government is proposing to an online ‘click and collect’ service. But Ms Hook says this would not work for people needing specialised or significant amounts of medicine.

She said: “Click-and-collect works sometimes but some people receive large quantities of medication that need to be temperature-controlled. People need to be able to walk in and see a professional team who are trained to deal with this.”

NHS England responded by saying it must get the ‘best out of its resources’.

Chief pharmaceutical officer Dr Keith Ridge said: “Community pharmacies are a vital part of the health and care system, and that’s why we are consulting on changes that will better integrate them into the NHS.

“We also have a responsibility to make sure we get the best use from our resources, and currently 40 per cent of pharmacies are in clusters of three or more within 10 minutes of each other. These proposals will ensure we have a modern, efficient pharmacy sector.”

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