Association in St Albans launches legal challenge against Government’s pharmacy funding cuts

PUBLISHED: 15:00 10 November 2016

 Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth (left) with Ian Strachan, chairman of the National Pharmacy Association, St Albans

Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth (left) with Ian Strachan, chairman of the National Pharmacy Association, St Albans

Photo supplied

A St Albans-based organisation championing independent pharmacies across the UK has launched a legal challenge to fight massive funding cuts imposed by the government.

The St Albans-based National Pharmacy Association has been fighting the government's funding cuts, to no avail, and has now launched legal action.The St Albans-based National Pharmacy Association has been fighting the government's funding cuts, to no avail, and has now launched legal action.

National Pharmacy Association (NPA) chairman Ian Strachan said: “It is a shame that we have been driven to a position in which we have no option but to take legal avenues.”

In a move which will close thousands of community pharmacies, from December 1 the government will slice £113 million from the sector, despite months of negotiations and lobbying from the likes of the NPA.

Community pharmacies in St Albans and Harpenden face an uncertain future as the Department of Health is also imposing a further seven per cent funding reduction in 2017/18.

Ian said: “Despite protests from patients, health care professionals, MPs and local government, ministers have so far persisted with plans for cuts that will hit the poorest communities and the most vulnerable patients hardest.”

Hertsmere MP Oliver Dowden speaking during a recent parliamentary debate on community pharmaciesHertsmere MP Oliver Dowden speaking during a recent parliamentary debate on community pharmacies

Andrea James, a partner at LHS Solicitors acting on behalf of the NPS, said: “This is a significant challenge to the Department of Health, which has failed to carry out any effective equality impact assessment to understand the effect of its illogical cuts on patients and community pharmacies.”

The NPA and other organisations, including the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) and Hertfordshire Local Pharmaceutical Committee based in Welwyn Garden City and which represents 253 community pharmacy contractors in this county, have campaigned against the reduction in funding.

Helen Musson, the Herts committee’s executive officer, said: “We are very concerned about these funding cuts and we don’t understand how they are compatible with the stated aims of the NHS and government to provide higher quality and more accessible care for patients.

“Although we are unlikely to see pharmacies closing immediately, the cuts are likely to lead to pharmacies in the St Albans and Harpenden areas having to reduce staffing, cut opening hours and reduce some of the services offered, such as home delivery of medicines and the supply of medicines in compliance aids.”

Two of the area’s three local politicians have recently spoken of their support for such pharmacies but have also welcomed the government’s ‘reform’ of the way they are funded.

During a debate on pharmacies last Wednesday (2), St Albans MP Anne Main said she agreed with the “thrust of ensuring we get the greatest efficiency for the taxpayer and the best possible health service for our constituents.

“The current way in which community pharmacy is paid and organised needs to be reformed. The NHS is labouring under huge financial pressures.”

The MP met with Rachel Solanki, superintendent pharmacist at the Quadrant Pharmacy, last Friday (4) to see how she could adapt to the new funding structure.

Rachel told her that community pharmacies such as hers should be “the first port of call for advice on medicine, minor illness and well-being”.

Anne said she was planning to hold a debate in parliament about the need for a variety of provision in which pharmacists are “rewarded for the quality service they provide” – particularly as over 70 per cent of the sector consists of multiples and chains.

Hertsmere MP Oliver Dowden, who recently visited the Crown Pharmacy in Shenley, has called upon ministers to do more to recognise their community value.

Paying tribute to local pharmacists, he said: “There is much the government could do to recognise and support the provision of services that take pressure off the NHS.”

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