Pharmacists ‘devastated’ at proposed cuts
With junior doctors preparing to stage their second walk out in as many months next week, a separate group of healthcare professionals are worrying for their futures as further government cuts threaten thousands of jobs.
Independent pharmacies across the UK could be hit by a six per cent funding cut as soon as October, equating to approximately £170million, according to the latest Department for Health figures.
Estimates suggest that between 1,000 and 3,000 pharmacies are at risk of closure if the cuts take place, leaving pharmacists, staff and their customers unsure about
Despite an online petition with over 40,000 signatures to date, discussions on the proposals will continue until March before the cuts are likely to be confirmed.
With pharmacies providing customers with much more than just a dispensary service, the ‘face of the NHS’ could soon be changing.
One local pharmacist and owner of Otley Pharmacy, Guljit Singh, says he worries for the future of his business when the cuts come in.
Serving hundreds of customers, the business is just one of thousands of independent pharmacies in the UK which is likely to be affected by the new budgets.
Explaining the impact on his business, he said: “I reckon it will ultimately mean a big hit to our profits which might mean reduced hours and possible pay cuts for staff.
“In turn, if I’m losing staff during the day, it could easily mean a reduction in service for customers.”
Gurjit has been running his pharmacy for the past three-and-a-half years.
He says he has quickly become a known face in the community and would be saddened to see business lost because of the cuts.
“It is a strange situation we are in,” he said. “The government say they want more people to use pharmacies so why are they cutting our funding?
“Sometimes you get the impression that the government would rather deal with just the bigger chains and that they are trying to push us out.
“We have the personal service here. We know a lot of our customers by name, we know their families, and are able to provide more tailored services as opposed to bigger chains where customers become just another number.”
The issues Gurjit raised were reiterated by Sandra Gidley from the Royal Pharmaceutical Society.
She said there were a ‘number of concerns’ which needed addressing before the government could implement such ‘life-changing’ cuts.
“We have spent a lot of time and energy encouraging people to come to pharmacies for health advice to cut pressure on A&E departments and GP services,” she said.
“Under the plans pharmacies could be forced to cut staff and have less capacity to give important health advice.
“The government must consider the capacity that the community pharmacy network provides to relieve pressures on GPs and A&E.”
Elsewhere, in Leeds, Khan Pharmacy is another independent pharmacy which is at threat of suffering financial losses should cuts come in.
Mr Khan, head pharmacist said: “We cannot afford to stop our services because so many people rely on us. We are being forced to just put up with it without any discussions.”
Consultations with the Department of Health and pharmacy and patient organisations are set to conclude on 24th March 2016.
A Department of Health spokesperson said: “We are investing record amounts in the NHS, but the whole health and care sector must make efficiencies to fulfil the NHS’s own five-year plan.
“We want to improve the way patients access their medicines, through click-and-collect as well as being able to see pharmacists in care homes, GP surgeries and A&E.
“There is no estimate of the number of pharmacies operating in coming years and with NHS England we are consulting on a scheme to give better support to isolated or rural pharmacies.”