“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 England, manager 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: