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Theresa May’s pharmacist rallies patients against the cuts

Manager Olivier Picard said he might have to start charging patients for services

Patients have rallied in support of the Prime Minister’s local pharmacy, which stands to lose up to £20,000 a year as a result of the funding cuts.

“Hundreds” of patients gathered outside Newdays Pharmacy in Twyford, Berkshire – which counts Theresa May's family among its customers – at 10am last Thursday (November 24) to join the campaign against the 12% cut to pharmacy funding in Englandmanager Olivier Picard told C+D.

Mr Picard organised the event with his local paper, the Maidenhead Advertiser, to “do something a little bigger” than his previous efforts to raise awareness of the cuts and encourage people to lobby their MP, he said.

“This time around we know the cuts are coming, and we think we’re going to suffer massively as a result,” he added.

Mr Picard had just three days to rally support for the demonstration, putting notices up in the pharmacy, and posting on social media to help attract people. He invited the National Pharmacy Association to witness the turn out."

“At 10 minutes to 10 we had two people lined up, and by two minutes to 10 we had maybe 120 people,” Mr Picard said. “They all piled in [to the pharmacy].

"We could fit maybe 30 customers in the shop, but there were people spilling out the back and front door, arriving on their mobility scooters. It was just amazing.”

“I think if we had a week, we could have filled the streets with patients and supporters,” Mr Picard added.

“People don’t want another charity shop replacing a pharmacy. They will fight to retain the good services they receive.”

Free services could go

Mr Picard said the pharmacy stands to lose thousands of pounds as a result of the cuts, and he is already considering stopping some of the free services he provides across three pharmacies in Berkshire and Buckinghamshire, including deliveries and blister packs for carers.

“In Reading, I am the only pharmacy that offers the NOMAD hospital discharge system [electronic medical transcription service] free of charge,” he said.

“This will all have to stop. We will have to reduce something or start charging for services,” he added.

Mr Picard said he “can’t accept that patients should be funding [NHS] services”. But while the funding drop coming into force on Thursday (December 1) will be damaging, it is the years ahead that he is most concerned about.

“I am worried about 2018-19, which we currently don’t have a plan for. The government will keep [cutting the budget] unless we can genuinely get people to lobby their MP to a point where it makes a difference,” Mr Picard said.

Mr Picard has not yet had a response from Ms May, after his initial meeting with her in July.  

However, he had a brief meeting with pharmacy minister David Mowat at an event in October, in which he introduced himself as “Theresa May’s pharmacist” and told him “we’re all very concerned about what you’re doing here”.

Get an insider's view on the funding cut negotiations below:

How are you preparing for the funding cuts?

Jonny Johal, Pharmacy Area manager/ Operations Manager

I wonder if Mr Picard used any scare tactics to produce this sort of patient response. He is probably worried that if his employer gets less from the government he'll get less in his annual pay review. Is involving patients in a money dispute with HMG ethical? Mr Picard is doing a great job to preserve his employer's profits. He has become a valuable resource for big companies like Boots, Lloyds, Day Lewis. ..... etc etc Good luck.

Olivier Picard, Pharmacy owner/ Proprietor

Dear Sau Sheung Yuen. Mr Picard here. I am indeed the owner of this pharmacy but when you own 3 shops, with bank loans, the reality is that you have to remain an owner & manager. The cuts will hit hard and I am not only hurt by your comments, I am also unbelievebly disappointed by them. I think if more people were campaigning the way independents owners do, then surely, we wouldn't be where we are? Perhaps you can read more of my views on the subject by clicking on the link provided below. No scare tactics were used to gather such crowds; my staff care about the issue, they care about their profession and patients are worried that they will have to use the unfriendly multiple branch located down the road if I was to fold. This is called campaigning.

Jonny Johal, Pharmacy Area manager/ Operations Manager

Dear Mr Picard, I assure you no offense was intended in my comments. I believe that is a reflection of the differences in our political stand. Unlike those of us who are not contractors, you already have an organisation called the PSNC looking after your interests, and I have learnt, they are even taking the DoH to court on your behalf (figuratively speaking). I qualified in 1979, and I have always been uneasy about the NHS turning into a monopoly customer and the revenue stream from that (public) source has always been politics and regulations sensitive. I know I am a rare breed amongst pharmacists, however I do sympathise and empathise with the plight of the "profession" of pharmacy today, but I disagree with your analysis as to how we got here. I think the old RPSGB and the GPhC, as well as greed, are responsible (you see, I remember the days of wholsale and retail price maintenance). Politically, at a time when more than one humdred thousand children are homeless, Police, Fire, welfare and most governmental services (even defence) are being cut, I don't think pharmacy services should not be subject to the constraints of the national economic reality, we are all in it together (and I exclude MPs - they voted themselves a big pay rise, and bankers in amongst the "we").

Richard Knott, Pharmacy Area manager/ Operations Manager

Not sure what you mean? He is an independent owner of this pharmacy? 

Jonny Johal, Pharmacy Area manager/ Operations Manager

I don't know; on their Web site there are 3 branches, and he is listed as the manager in one of them.

Dave Downham, Manager

As many as 3 branches, eh? Clearly in the same bracket then as Boots, Lloyds, Day Lewis....etc etc.

Charles Whitfield Bott, Pharmacist Director

All employees working in a pharmacy should be worried that their wages will reduce over time, its inevitable.

Shaun Steren, Pharmaceutical Adviser

Why worry about the inevitable? 

Chandra Nathwani, Community pharmacist

True! We are all going to die one day!

Soon-To-Be Ex-Pharmacist, Superintendent Pharmacist

Best of British luck to him. I think the only thing that might make any difference at all is an all out strike - a couple of days without pharmacists should make a few people sit up and take notice. But of course we all know that would never happen because there will always be some weaselly locum who would work for an inflated price.

Valentine Trodd, Community pharmacist

Is there an exemption clause for strikes during opening hours in the NHS contract? :-D

Charles Whitfield Bott, Pharmacist Director

Pharmacists could strike, but contractors basicaly can not because they would be in breach of their contract. If as a contractor your shop was shut due to a strike it is difficult to know what the DoH etc could do. However in my case we have three shops and three pharacist directors so we would have to stay open as I dont think we would have any defence for closing.

Valentine Trodd, Community pharmacist

Would be interesting if in a few months time C+D would do an article on any pharmacies that have actually stopped providing any of the 'free' services such as delivery and blister packs due to the cuts. As I understand it, you can't refuse to provide blister packs if there is a genuine need, as under the Equality Act you have a duty to make 'reasonable adjustments' which includes auxiliary aids. And since a fee within the Practice Payment contributes towards the cost of providing such auxiliary aids, wouldn't you also be in breach of your NHS contract?

Dave Downham, Manager

The practice payment disappears from Thursday, so I wonder if an element of the single dispensing fee is earmarked for this?

Stephen Eggleston, Community pharmacist

Very true - however, if you provide blister packs for the carer to use to administer the meds to the patient, then you are providning the service for the carer, not the patient. Blister packs as a substitute for training carers is not the way to provide safe patient support

Valentine Trodd, Community pharmacist

Agreed, but it all comes back to the same thing in the end - if I don't do it Mr. Patel down the road will. Why else can care homes get their meds blistered for free? So they can employ cheap care assistants to admininister the meds rather than trained nurses. In effect, we are subsidising them. I bend over backwards for care homes and they're still impossible to keep happy. I'm sure I'm losing money on them but my bosses just see the script numbers - it's ridiculous. Pharmacy shooting itself in the foot yet again! Will we ever learn?

Charles Whitfield Bott, Pharmacist Director

I have turned down a few care homes recently as I feel to give a level of sevice to which I would put my name we would have to charge. At the moment they would rather have less of a service with no charges. That may or may not change in the future. We aslo do our best to find a way out of providing a blister pack to a patient, in that we will not provide them so a care company can pay their staff less and keep them deskilled. Obviously if the qualify then they get a free one.

Valentine Trodd, Community pharmacist

Makes sense. Unfortunately my employers don't have such an enlightened view. To them it's all about numbers of scripts.

Jupo Patel, Production & Technical

*This comment has been deleted for breaching C+D's community principles*

Soon-To-Be Ex-Pharmacist, Superintendent Pharmacist

At last.....

Valentine Trodd, Community pharmacist

Mr Picard going around saying that he is Theresa May's pharmacist - is this not a breach of patient confidentiality?

Also "I am the only pharmacy that does hospital discharge" - what exactly does that mean? Maybe it's a Berks thing...

Dodo pharmacist, Community pharmacist

It is not a breach of patient confidentiality because during her brief Conservative leadership campaign, Theresa May visitied and was photographed with Olivier Picard in his pharmacy, telling all the press how he was her pharmacist and how concerned she was about the pharmacy cuts. She told him how she supported him and community pharmacy in general and how she would not let him down. Look how that turned out. As soon as she became PM, she forgot all about her visit and waved through the pharmacy cuts.

Dodo pharmacist, Community pharmacist

It is not a breach of patient confidentiality because during her brief Conservative leadership campaign, Theresa May visitied and was photographed with Olivier Picard in his pharmacy, telling all the press how he was her pharmacist and how concerned she was about the pharmacy cuts. She told him how she supported him and community pharmacy in general and how she would not let him down. Look how that turned out. As soon as she became PM, she forgot all about her visit and waved through the pharmacy cuts.

Valentine Trodd, Community pharmacist

Ah, that explains it.

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