Pharmacies and the help they provide patients with health problems are at risk of government cuts, a Banbury expert says.
Stuart Gale, chief pharmacist and owner of the Frosts Pharmacy Group which has one pharmacy in Banbury, two in Oxford and an online pharmacy business, said closures of any outlets is ‘hugely disappointing’ as the industry tries to support the NHS in crisis.
“Our workload has increased to support patients struggling to get GP access. This isn’t helping us in our new role. Instead it will cause pharmacy to contract and cut costs.”
Mr Gale spoke as MPs are due today (Wednesday November 2) to discuss cuts of up to six per cent in funds to pharmacies.
“Cuts will result in pharmacies putting a stop to many services they provide free of charge - home deliveries, packaging medication into dosette boxes, requesting prescriptions for patients and collecting them from surgery, helping with minor injuries and having enough trained staff available to meet patient needs.”
He added the question mark over the Horton and the difficulties being faced by GP practices made the crucial role of the community pharmacy clearer.
He said the cuts could mean the loss of one or more pharmacies in the Banbury area which could have a massive impact on patients’ access to advice and over the counter medicines. Mr Gale urged the public to support efforts such as the 38 Degrees petition to prevent the cuts.
Initial steps will result in a four per cent reduction in costs which will then reduce to two per cent but in reality cuts will be closer to six per cent, which is considered disproportionate by the pharmacy community, Mr Gale said..
There have been a number of petitions set up to encourage the public to support their local pharmacy. To add your support to the campaign click here.
“The Department of Health has offered no constructive proposals to help close or merge existing pharmacies, they have just said they will reduce support,” said Mr Gale.
“Pharmacy is more cost effective than urgent care and over recent years the government has encouraged patients to use their pharmacy as a first port of call. This strategy was introduced to ease the pressure on GP and A&E services. Now, in spite of the fact that the NHS is bursting at the seams, the strategy has changed again and as community pharmacy cuts begin to bite, so will we see patient numbers and waiting times to treatment shoot upwards.
“Online pharmacy services will no doubt take a bigger role in providing patients with the medication they need if they face difficulties accessing their community pharmacy. The latest recommendations from the NHS suggest that this is an area which they are keen to grow and promote.”