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Xrayser: Will politicians listen to the pharmacy petition?

The funding cuts provide an opportunity for the sector to stand united, says Xrayser

Despite the best efforts of Pharmacy Voice, we don’t seem to be heard when it really matters. Especially when the 6% cut in pharmacy income was announced by the Department of Health (DH) – not only gagging the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) but tying both hands behind their back. However, now we have The Petition.

“Stop cuts to pharmacy funding and support pharmacy services that save NHS money” is our very own internet petition on, the parliamentary version of an online suggestion box. No matter how worthy or wacky your proposal, you can submit it to Her Majesty’s government, and if you can persuade another 9,999 people to sign up, you will get a response.

At the time of writing, the “stop cuts to pharmacy” petition had 10,471 signatures, which seems a reason for celebration and pride until you realise that number is far surpassed by a petition to “keep all lead ammunition” (22,022) and dwarfed by the “make the production, sale and use of cannabis legal” petition (235,725).

We may have achieved the 10,000 mark that guarantees a response, but don’t expect too much – the official replies are little more than the sort of platitudes you might see in greetings cards.

Responses begin with “the government is committed to…” if they don’t want to do anything different, as in: “the government is committed to fairer tax systems”. If the petition relates to something popular – such as the armed forces or fluffy animals – the response begins with “the government recognises…”, as in: “the government recognises the contribution that puppies can make to rehabilitating the brave members of our armed forces”.

So I anticipate the response to our petition will be: “the government is committed to eliminating the NHS deficit, and while we recognise the invaluable contribution made to the NHS by community pharmacists, they’re easier to shaft than doctors or nurses”.

But while some have questioned the impact of this petition, it does show a significant groundswell of support. After all, a petition to “reverse the general practice budget cuts” still has fewer than 3,900 signatures after 50 days, while “stop cuts to pharmacy” has passed 10,000 within two weeks. And never underestimate the impact of persistence – such as 18 months ago when a campaign by this very magazine was instrumental in getting HMRC to reverse its decision to exempt pharmacies from the small business PAYE allowance.

A petition alone will not reverse the funding cut, yet it could be the foundation for pharmacy to genuinely stand united behind a common call. Maybe with a true pharmacy voice, backed by the tens of thousands of voting staff and hundreds of thousands of voting patients, we can finally make the sector heard.

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