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End of small pharmacy funding scheme could affect rural patients

Jeremy Hunt has not given "direction" to NHS England for the scheme to continue

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt has not given "direction" to NHS England for top-up funding for Essential Small Pharmacies to continue, which contractors warn could lead to closures

Patients in rural areas could be prevented from accessing health services once NHS England ends its funding for small pharmacies next year, contractors have warned.

The Essential Small Pharmacies Local Pharmaceutical Services (ESPLPS) scheme, which pays a variable top-up fee to contractors dispensing between 6,000 and 26,400 items a year, will stop next April because NHS England had not received "direction" from health secretary Jeremy Hunt for the funding to continue, the commissioning body told C+D last week (October 15).

Contractors warned that the funding was necessary to maintain pharmacies in rural areas and the government needed to consider the consequences for patients of ending it.

NHS England could not say how many pharmacies would be affected and told C+D its area teams were "working through the consequences" of the change and seeing "what alternatives may be available". The scheme initially ran from 2006 to 2011, before NHS England extended if for a further four years.

Louisa Main, manager at Millers Pharmacy in Cheddleton, Staffordshire said the fund was "essential" to keep her business open. Without it the pharmacy would need to dispense double the number of items to survive, she said.

The government had not "thought through" scrapping the scheme, Ms Main said. If pharmacies like hers closed it would hurt patients – particularly the elderly – who rely on pharmacies in rural areas, and for whom it is "totally unrealistic" to travel further afield, she stressed.

Independent Pharmacy Federation spokesperson and contractor Graham Jones told C+D that the predecessor to ESPLPS had been necessary to establish one of his own pharmacies, and called on the government to ensure that patients in deprived rural areas would continue to have pharmacy access.

"In many areas if you don't have ESPLPS, you won't have a [pharmacy] service. It's always [been] particularly important for newer pharmacies in areas of low service provision, because they need to get a foothold established," he said.

Applications to the scheme are now closed, and in 2010-11 there were 132 contractors operating under the scheme in England. To apply, a pharmacy could not be situated within a kilometre of any other.

NHS England told C+D it was "committed" to making sure all patients had good pharmacy access, and it was working with area teams to decide how to best meet patients' needs.

PSNC told C+D it was "exploring" ways to protect the income of pharmacies who had been operating under the scheme.

Does your pharmacy rely on ESPLPS funding?

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Super Pharmacist, Community pharmacist

A bit of decorum would not go amiss here gents! These are pages related to discussing pharmacy issues in a polite manner, even if you strongly disagree in opinion. There are other blogs you can direct your venom at each other to your hearts' content using the language you're familiar with.

I guess my breath is wasted on you two though!

Rajive Patel, Community pharmacist

Dirty Filthy Conservative Ideology at play again. When will these toffs learn that social needs outweigh the drive for small government and reduced investment in public services. Disgusting. I'm telling all my customers to vote labor to save the NHS from these cretins. Hopefully Labor will reverse the H&SC act and move towards progressive investment into health services.

Sami Khaderia, Non healthcare professional


The party that sold the gold reserves at 50% below market value.
THE party that let in 4 million ppl into the country and now admit is was a mistake.
The party that borrowed $$$$$$ even when the economy was booming.
The party that let ppl claim £40,000 per annum on state benefits.
The party that led the country into an illegal war.

Patel - the NHS is bankrupt. There will be a £30 billion black hole by 2020 and LIEBOUR has pledged a further £2.5 billion in tax rises.

Do the sums patel, Its not rocket science.

Rajive Patel, Community pharmacist

*This comment has been deleted because it breached the community principles: - C+D

Sami Khaderia, Non healthcare professional

why the abuse?

read the article today on the BBC

there are major problems in funding in the NHS...

R A, Community pharmacist

*This comment has been deleted because it referred to previous comments that were deleted for breaching the community principles: - C+D

Sami Khaderia, Non healthcare professional

*This comment has been deleted because it breached the community principles: - C+D

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