Pharmacy Voice has issued a stinging response to the government's planned funding cuts, claiming they are unevidenced and arrived "out of the blue".
The impending 6% cut to the global sum in England is driven by the Treasury's desire to save money, rather than what the Department of Health considers “efficient or safe”, Pharmacy Voice chair Claire Ward said yesterday (February 15).
The lobbying group is eager to work with the government in a “constructive way” and sees the cuts as an opportunity to change the sector for the better, Ms Ward said.
Letter to Keith Ridge
In an open letter to England's chief pharmaceutical officer Keith Ridge published yesterday (February 15), Ms Ward said the sector is still "reeling from the shock" of the cuts.
"We are very concerned that if the cuts are implemented as proposed there will be a diminishment of quality, safety and access to care for patients.
"[Pharmacy services] will simply not be viable with the proposed reduction of core funding," she added.
The government's decision to announce the cuts in December with "no impact assessment" and "no route for public comment" had "severely undermined" engagement from pharmacy bodies, Pharmacy Voice stressed in its official response to government proposals.
Slashing pharmacy funding endangers patients, risks job losses, and "destroys the long-term potential" of the sector, it warned.
"[The cuts were] imposed with little notice and with scant regard for the consequences,” it said.
On hub and spoke
Pharmacy Voice criticised the government for assuming hub-and-spoke dispensing would save money for the sector. The model was not a "game-changer", it said.
"We have significant concerns about the potential unintended consequences of moving to industrial-scale centralised dispensing, [including] the loss of interaction between patients and healthcare professionals," it said.
Plans for the future
In its response, Pharmacy Voice called on the government to make the following five commitments:
- Stop the planned disinvestment in community pharmacy in 2016/17
- Agree a sustainable long-term settlement with the sector
- Invest in service transformation in the same way as for other parts of the NHS
- Put in place a joint, coordinated approach to planning investment and implementing change, in partnership with national community pharmacy bodies
- Deliver the reforms that are required to enable community pharmacy to play its full role
Without these commitments, the government will be risking the continuity of the supply chain, the motivation of pharmacists, and the potential for the sector to reduce demand on GPs and urgent care services, Pharmacy Voice warned.
Pharmacists' positive response
Pharmacists on Twitter applauded the "excellent" response to the cuts.