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'Essential small pharmacies' at risk of closure... again

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Surrey LPC: Only time will tell if these pharmacies survive

None of the Surrey pharmacies previously deemed "essential" by NHS England are not eligible for financial protection from the cuts, a local pharmaceutical committee has warned.

In 2015, C+D revealed that 102 low-volume pharmacies deemed "essential" by NHS England had been granted an extension to their top-up funding. This included three pharmacies in Surrey, according to NHS England's south east regional team.

But Surrey LPC chief executive Martin Mandelbaum said this temporary funding meant these pharmacies had been denied money from the Pharmacy Access Scheme – designed to protect vital pharmacies from the worst effects of the funding cuts.

These pharmacies are "at greater risk" of closure once their top-up funding comes to an end over the next 12 months, Mr Mandelbaum stressed.

Unfair funding

The Access Scheme is “quite different" from the previous funding system for vital pharmacies, which was “was fair”, as the pharmacies were funded by NHS England rather than the global sum, Mr Mandelbaum claimed.

“The word ‘essential' is diminishing in my opinion," he added. “What was seen as essential 30 years ago is quite different to today."

Despite the worrying outlook for some, Mr Mandelbaum said contractors remain "positive" and are "taking the bull by the horns" to tackle the funding drop. "Only time will tell if they are successful," he added.

What are 'essential small pharmacies'?

In 2006, businesses dispensing less than 26,400 items annually, and which were more than 1km from the next nearest pharmacy, could apply to receive NHS funding – up to £5,766 monthly in 2013 – to provide local pharmaceutical services.

The scheme was initially due to end in 2013, but some pharmacies received extensions. After the final extension in October 2015, 102 pharmacies were still receiving this funding.

Read about C+D's campaign to protect the funding for essential small pharmacies.

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