Hampstead and Kilburn MP Tulip Siddiq met Camden pharmacists to discuss their funding concerns at Portcullis House on Monday evening
Published: 27 October, 2016
By TOM FOOT
HALF of Camden’s pharmacies are at risk of closing due to cuts to health grants, chemists have warned.
The red alert follows the Department of Health’s move to cut £113million worth of funding to community pharmacies, which have traditionally been used to help offset staff and operating cuts elsewhere in the NHS.
Several pharmacists raised their fears at a meeting with Hampstead and Kilburn MP Tulip Siddiq at Portcullis House on Monday evening.
Sanjay Ganvir, from Greenlight pharmacy in Drummond Street, said the government should be helping pharmacies ease waiting times and provide greater access to advice.
He said: “Instead they are going through the tired old model of going through the GP. We are talking about 3,000 pharmacists who could be losing their jobs.
“The government suggested up to a quarter of pharmacies nationally could close, but Camden will probably be the worst affected borough in the country. Up to half could close here, and the most likely to close will be in the most deprived wards. Losing the most accessible service the NHS has in Camden is a disaster for the patients and communities we serve.”
During the meeting on Monday, Yogendra Parmar, chief executive of Camden and Islington Local Pharmaceutical Committee (LPC), said the cuts could eventually bring about the closure of “half of the pharmacies in Camden”.
Chemist shops have previously been credited with driving down costs for the NHS. In Camden, a typical pharmacist dispenses around 87,000 prescriptions each year and can see, on average, 140 patients a day.
The meeting heard that, although patients were often directed by the NHS to pharmacies instead of their GP or hospital, these were not fully funded to meet their needs. For example, patients in “deprived areas” who are used to having medication given to them for free, would have to be told to pay.
Ms Siddiq said: “I am deeply concerned about the devastating cuts planned for our local pharmacies. The government’s plans could lead to 50 per cent of Camden pharmacies closing their doors – a terrifying thought for those who depend on their services. I will be pushing [Health Secretary] Jeremy Hunt to urgently rethink this ill-thought-out attack on a vital community institution. The pharmacies are a real lifeline for many constituents.”
It was also claimed at the round-table meeting hosted by the MP that there had been “zero engagement” between Camden Council’s health and well-being board and pharmacists, with one Camden pharmacist saying: “We feel shut out from the decision-making.”
Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) chief executive Sue Sharpe said: “This funding imposition is a short-sighted and ill-judged approach to take, particularly when alternative constructive proposals that would address the need for the NHS to make cash savings have been put forward by PSNC. The NHS must recognise this as winter pressures set in and it turns, as usual, to pharmacies for help.”
A Department for Health spokesman said: “We want to modernise the pharmacy sector – giving patients the best care by making the most of pharmacists’ skills.
“That’s why we are investing £112m to deliver a further 1,500 pharmacists in general practice by 2020. We have worked collaboratively with the PSNC and have listened to their suggestions and counter-proposals over the course of many months.
“We are committed to offering more help to those pharmacies people most depend on compared to others."