Michael Levitan told C+D that although Harrow Council’s proposals – which it was consulting on until last week – “might save money in the short-term, [they] will increase both health and social care costs in the long-term”.
The council said stopping local stop smoking services, including “commissioned and specialist services”, from April 2017 would save £279,000.
People needing help to stop smoking would have to “find alternative resources”, such as “pharmacies who are able (if willing) to provide advice, support and over-the-counter drugs”, it said in a consultation document.
Stop smoking services have helped 1,751 people in the borough to successfully quit since April 2013, according to the council, which said cutting the service is needed to help it survive an £83 million drop in funding for 2018, compared with 2014 levels.
Local pharmacists encouraged to respond
Mr Levitan told C+D last week that Harrow LPC would respond to the consultation, and had also been involved with two local petitions. “We’ve encouraged all our contractors to respond, and their families and staff [if] they are Harrow residents.”
“There is a paper petition which has been put out by Harrow community pharmacies, and we’ve already had several hundred signatures returned to the LPC office,” he said.
“Community pharmacies were trailblazers in the early days [of the service],” he added. “They were responsible for virtually all the quits in the borough and worked extremely hard to embed the service in the primary care trust.”
Councillor Varsha Parmar, portfolio holder for public health, equality and wellbeing at Harrow Council, told C+D that the number of smokers in the borough “is one of the lowest in the country and has been decreasing year on year”.
“Like most councils across the country, we face huge financial challenges and need to look at ways to save money across all council services, while protecting our most vulnerable residents,” she added.
“If [the plans] go ahead, help will still be available through GPs and pharmacies,” Ms Parmar added.
An online petition against the council’s plans, set up by a local consultant in respiratory medicine, has secured more than 900 signatures.
Listen to Public Health England director Kevin Fenton explain why community pharmacy is one of Stoptober's main “success stories”: