Pharmacies in the north west have seen services vanish or shrink, with two PCTs cutting minor ailments services or smoking cessation services.Tameside and Glossop PCT has cancelled its smoking cessation service, and Blackburn with Darwen Teaching PCT will suspend its minor ailments services through pharmacies from September. East Lancashire PCT has also reduced its minor ailments service, with the formulary slashed and patients allowed only a limited number of visits before they must use GP services.The cuts come just one week after C+D revealed the loss of a stop-smoking scheme in Surrey.Lloydspharmacy director Andy Murdock hit out at the cuts, warning that PCTs were “cutting off their noses to spite their faces” with a narrow outlook.He said: “If we are going to have greater efficiency in the NHS it would make sense to move treatment to the right place. In my view pharmacy is the best place [for minor ailments]. “If you look at the cost of pharmacy, it is cheaper. If you’re increasing access, and doing it cheaper… it’s a false economy [for PCTs to cut services].”Ian Short, secretary for Oldham, Tameside and Glossop LPC, said the committee was considering whether to contest the loss of its the cessation service in its area. Pharmacy was a “soft target” that could see further cuts, he warned.He said: “I deal with four PCTs and all are aggressively reviewing pharmacy services as they see bottom line quick savings. We’re seen to be a particularly soft target.”However, Tameside and Glossop PCT offered a ray of hope, vowing it would try to save the service. Pharmacies had been so successful in helping quitters the service had outstripped its budget, the PCT said.Mark Collins, PSNC north western regional representative, said the future of services through pharmacies in the region was “pretty much doom and gloom”. “The prospect of reduced income is really scary, and we’ve had to tell patients they can’t use the service,” he said.However, Mr Collins praised pharmacist colleagues working in the PCT, despite the cuts. “Pharmacist advisers put a lot of work in – but they’re told by bean counters services have got to go. They’re devastated,” he added.Easy Lancashire PCT said the cost of its pharmacy minor ailments services had exceeded forecasts and had been scaled back because of financial pressures. Blackburn with Darwen Teaching PCT was contacted about its cuts, but had not responded as C+D went to press.
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