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‘Lloydspharmacy’s diabetes charges are a final warning to government’

"C+D readers warned from the beginning that services would be the biggest victim of the cuts"

C+D's editor hopes the slimming down of Lloydspharmacy's free services is a timely reminder for the government of the damage caused by its funding cuts

Lloydspharmacy’s “difficult” decision to charge patients for diabetes screening and blood pressure checks this week won’t come as a surprise to many. After all, limiting their free delivery service and divesting around 200 branches hadn’t been enough to mitigate an ongoing drop in profits caused by two-a-half-years of reimbursement cuts.

But this latest news from the multiple is a salient reminder that while the anger of the anti-cuts campaign may have settled into begrudging acceptance, the erosion of pharmacy businesses in England, and their offering to patients, shows no sign of letting up.

The government always looked at the impact of its funding cuts in terms of closures. “Clusters” of pharmacies – so the thinking at Whitehall went – served no purpose and would be the first to be thinned out.

But while closures have sadly taken place – 140 between November 2016 and May 2018 alone – C+D readers warned from the beginning that it would be services – and their users – that would be the biggest victims.

Of course, Lloydspharmacy is only the most high profile example. C+D’s findings indicate pharmacies at every level are having to consider – or already are – stripping back their offering. The Department of Health and Social Care has forced pharmacies’ hands, and seems uninterested in the results, either on patients or the wider NHS.

The government claimed to have done an impact assessment, however flimsy, on its cuts to pharmacy funding. But has anyone assessed the public health impact of withdrawing free diabetes checks and blood pressure tests from more than 1,500 Lloydspharmacy branches? And how does this fit into the government’s alleged prevention strategy? It’s these questions we can only hope will be ringing in the ears of NHS England negotiators during their ongoing talks to decide a funding settlement for the sector.

Matt Hancock reminded C+D this week that he is still fascinated by the French pharmacy model. The health secretary would do well to remember that the current success of that country’s pharmacies is founded upon a multi-year funding settlement – and a recognition of the sector’s ability to deliver national public health services.

James Waldron is editor of C+D. Let him know how your pharmacy is coping in 2019 by tweeting him @CandDJamesW or emailing him at [email protected]

5 Comments

steve allan, Pharmacy Area manager/ Operations Manager

I rarely post but felt compelled -  Pharmacy causes its own problems right back to offering free systems to care homes , free home delivery , free MDS (no it mostly isnt a DDA issue)   Free services.which on the whole dont really create additonal customers just look good frorm a marketing perspective..... against a back drop of a Central negotiated contract framework  which is the part we are monitored and measured against - we fail to give value to what we do at every turn then call foul. Government is not interested in the cross subsidy of services in fact if government felt the funding was creating a cross subsidy they would cut even more money- as they see Pharmacy services as "expensive" -  Had we valued what we could offer in the first place we would have a much better relationships within healthcare.- We have saying this for 30 years 

Technology will motivate change but only if the cost of the system from the government perspective  reduces their outlay .....and that is far from proven yet so we must value  and charge for our services  

Leon The Apothecary, Student

I don't think this will be the last final warning but one of many as pbarmacy is contorted into something else.

Peter Smith, Student

I think it was Abraham Lincoln who said that "all it takes for evil to succeed is for good men to do nothing". UK pharmacy has had a succession of bad men doing nothing, so we didn't really have a chance, which is why evil has triumphed in this profession.

Actually it seems it was Edmund Burke, I was wrong, but what he said is very relevant to pharmacists in the UK.

Benie I, Locum pharmacist

You're deluded if you think Government are even paying attention. This will be one of many 'final' warnings. 

Peter Smith, Student

I agree - the government are very unlikely to care at all, even if they knew about it, as long as they don't have to reverse a funding cut. Not much of a "warning" if they don't even know what's happening.

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