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AIMp boss hits out at ‘agenda to destroy’ community pharmacy

The Association of Independent Multiple Pharmacies (AIMp) has suggested that there is an “agenda to destroy” community pharmacy as the pressures facing the sector continue to build.

AIMp CEO Dr Leyla Hannbeck told C+D that although the sector is “very serious about being a solution for the NHS”, there appears to be “an agenda to destroy” it.

While Dr Hannbeck stressed that she wasn’t “blaming” anyone for the situation, she pointed to a list of “ingredients” that was holding the sector back, such as a lack of funding and resources and no overall “vision”.

“That’s the recipe - it's completely mixed and cooked up,” she told C+D.

Read more: PSNC: Pharmacy First must not be left to ‘piecemeal’ local commissioning

Contractor and AIMp member Ian Strachan agreed with Dr Hannbeck’s comments, calling the situation “a calculated demise of the network through fiscal attrition”.

Speaking exclusively to C+D, he accused the "machinery of government" of trying to “decouple” community pharmacy from its workforce by “luring” pharmacists into higher paid primary care roles that have a “more favourable” work-life balance.

C+D approached NHS England (NHSE) and the Department of Health and Social Care (DH) for comment.


Bricks-and-mortar pharmacies at risk


It comes after Mr Strachan, who was formerly on the board of the National Pharmacy Association (NPA), attended an “emergency summit” of sector leaders and politicians co-ordinated by the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) last week (March 21).

Forming part of the Save Our Pharmacies campaign, the 15 MPs who attended the meeting were briefed on the “severe challenges facing the sector” and the “very urgent need for additional funding”, according to PSNC. 

Read more: ‘Short-sighted at best’: PSNC blasts recruitment of 4k PCN pharmacists

Mr Strachan accused the government of wanting “to see bricks-and-mortar pharmacies reduced”, citing an estimation made by former pharmacy minister Alistair Burt in 2016 that up to 3,000 pharmacies could close due to funding cuts.
Company Chemists’ Association (CCA) data released last month revealed that 720 pharmacies in England have permanently closed since 2015, with deprived areas the hardest hit.
Mr Strachan also suggested that the government does not like “the idea of small multiple enterprises (SMEs) within the NHS”.
“They want to manage the workforce of employees with capitated costs,” he claimed.
He added that pharmacies are “being allowed to fail” and that some are having to borrow cash to “maintain liquidity.” 
Despite the pressure on community pharmacy, Mr Strachan felt that the MPs at the summit were on pharmacists’ side and did want to help.
He said the MPs “absolutely” supported pharmacy but considered that their understanding of how the sector is funded is “poor”.
“I don't really think they understand the funding clearly, although they can see that we're underfunded,” he said. “And I think that's a real barrier.”
The Save our Pharmacies campaign, spearheaded by a coalition of pharmacy bodies, is lobbying the government for "fair and sustained funding" for community pharmacies in England.
A public petition created as part of the campaign has so far amassed over 34,000 signatures.

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