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Shadow pharmacy minister: Small pharmacy closures will hit patients

Jamie Reed MP: "No logic to substantiate" the government's claims

Labour pharmacy minister Jamie Reed doubts the government’s promise that patients will have adequate access to pharmacy services if funding cuts cause closures


The shadow pharmacy minister has questioned government assurances that patients will be unaffected by funding cuts to low-volume pharmacies.

Jamie Reed MP told C+D there was “no logic to substantiate” the government view that patients would continue to have adequate access to pharmacy services if funding cuts forced their nearest pharmacy to close.

His comments came after health minister Jane Ellison last week (March 3) defended the decision by many NHS England area teams to discontinue top-up funding to small pharmacies – the Essential Small Pharmacies Local Pharmaceutical Services Scheme (ESPLPS).

Even if this resulted in closures of the businesses, which are all located at least 1km from another pharmacy, patients would still have access to pharmaceutical services from internet businesses and delivery services, Ms Ellison said.

But Mr Reed refuted the claims and pointed to areas with aging populations and “rubbish bus services” as examples where pharmacy closures could have an impact.

“The notion of them [patients] having the same access to pharmacies as they have now is a stretch. So I don’t think the minister has given huge reassurance,” he told C+D after Ms Ellison made the comments during a parliamentary debate.

The ESPLPS scheme will continue nationally until March and NHS England area teams can choose to extend the funding beyond that date. So far, many area teams have avoided committing to its continuation - Ms Ellison revealed only 16 of the 73 pharmacies who currently received the funding had received assurance they would continue to be financially supported.

'Difficult position' for pharmacies

Ms Ellison said she hoped the debate would “spur on” area teams to urgently look at outstanding funding proposals. But Mr Reed said the upcoming general election left the sector in a “difficult position”.

“Who knows what is going to happen [or] which minister is going to be responsible for what? These aren’t promises you can take to the bank,” he stressed.

Pharmacies on the EPSLPS scheme – designed to ensure 'essential' small businesses located at least 1km from another pharmacy can remain viable – told C+D last month that they were “completely reliant” on the extra funding and would have to close without it.

On Friday (March 6), C+D launched a campaign to secure continued funding for these pharmacies. C+D has drafted a letter for pharmacists and patients to send to their MP, urging them to persuade their local NHS England area team to quickly reach a funding decision for affected pharmacies in their constituency. 

Are you aware of any small pharmacies in your area awaiting a funding decision?

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Gerry Diamond, Primary care pharmacist

Well it's election time and politicians promise you anything to prostitute themselves for a vote and a life doing nothing except lining their own pockets!!!

N O, Pharmaceutical Adviser

Most of them are in LONDON area and are owned by people who already have 1 or more Pharmacies in the same area (sometimes within 2 miles of each other) There was a rumour, I cannot verify, that when the item counts were going up in these small pharmacies they were diverted to these other branches so that the ESLPS status can be maintained. If accessibility is the main issue then the Govt is better off spending money on good transport system than waste money here. I am sure these people go out of their areas for other livelihood related services like FOOD, BOOZE, SMOKE, MOVIES etc. I haven't seen any public outcry on opening a supermarket (or their smaller branch) in such areas so why Pharmacy ?? Also, I am not against any such pharmacies which are indeed the only Pharmacies within an actual RURAL area (where nearest pharmacy may be 8 - 10 miles away) and not just a suburb where a certain area was developed for residential purposes only without investing in transport infrastructure. Are the GPs opening in these areas as well or just having a satellite site (sponsored by local CCG) If not having a Pharmacy near your house is a major social & public health issue, then we should see the number of Pharmacies (ESLPS) at least 10 times the numbers at the moment.

Gerry Diamond, Primary care pharmacist

ESPS maybe essential areas of inner city deprivation, social isolation among elderly and other groups. the case for inner cities can be equally compelling for rural areas too.

John Alan James Robinson, Superintendent Pharmacist

Rural pharmacies should be protected yes. I seem to remember that most ESPS pharmacies are in London. Not to say that they are not needed but difficult to justify I would imagine. Politicians make statements in the alternative simply because they are in opposition. Don't expect them to think logically.

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