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Pharmacy workloads rise as several GP surgeries close in one area

Pharmacies in Brighton and Hove are struggling to cope with an “influx” of “displaced” patients after several GP surgeries closed in the area, a dispenser has claimed.

Since February 2015, eight GP practices have closed due to GP retirement, patient safety concerns and contract termination. A further two GP practices – Hove Park Villas Surgery and Rottingdean Branch Surgery – are due to close this month and in September, respectively.

The closures have left the primary care system in a “fragile state”, Benjamin D’Montigny, a locum dispenser who works in the Brighton and Hove area, told C+D last week (July 16).

Pharmacies near to the remaining GP surgeries have experienced “a big influx” of patients who have been “displaced” following the closures, as patients “will naturally go [to] the pharmacy that is closest to their local surgery”, Mr D’Montigny explained.

“One of the branches I locum in is seeing a lot [of] new patients,” he said, which means some pharmacies are having to deliver medicines to “patients quite far from [them]”.

Longer waiting times

“I’m [also] seeing an increased level of pressure stemming from [the remaining] surgeries struggling to handle prescription requests,” Mr D’Montigny claimed.

This has “reflected poorly on pharmacies” as staff are “pushed to prepare medication requests in an unreasonable timeframe”, he added.

In one branch, “we’ve had to restrict the number of blister packs we’re taking on because we simply don’t have time to do them all”, Mr D’Montigny said. “We’re having to give patients longer waiting times because the surgeries are taking longer to process their prescriptions.”

Despite the extra workload, he and his dispensing colleagues are “trying to work harder so they can give the same level of service”. “[It] is frustrating for us…[because] we try to hold ourselves to a high standard and sometimes it is difficult to maintain,” he added.

LPC “aware of changes”

Community Pharmacy Surrey and Sussex chief executive James Wood said the local pharmaceutical committee (LPC) is “aware of the number of changes with practices in the areas and the potential impact it might have on local pharmacies, especially in relation to support for self-care and common illnesses.”

The LPC is planning to survey its members about their current workload, and “will be discussing further local [practice] changes with NHS England and clinical commissioning groups (CCGs)”, he added.

New GP incentives

Mr D’Montigny said he would like to see Brighton and Hove CCG provide incentives for new GP practices to open in the area, to help alleviate workload pressure on all healthcare professionals.

“That is going to increase our service level for patients,” he said. “We’ll be able to see prescriptions come back to us quicker, service [patients] quicker, and generally make the whole pharmacy experience a much better one.”

Brighton and Hove CCG did not respond to C+D’s request for comment at the time of going to press.

However, in a statement published last month announcing the closure of Rottingdean Branch GP surgery, Brighton and Hove CCG clinical chair Dr David Supple said: “A key area of our plans to improve health and social care across the city is to make sure general practice is more sustainable, more resilient and works efficiently and effectively for many years ahead.

“This will include integrating some services with other clinical specialists like pharmacists better supporting GPs, and helping GPs work more collaboratively together.”

Has your pharmacy been impacted by local GP closures?

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