Fight to protect ‘vital’ Harpenden pharmacy

Head of communications for the National Pharmacy Association (NPA) Stephen Fishwick films a commerci

Head of communications for the National Pharmacy Association (NPA) Stephen Fishwick films a commercial for the NPA with the help of dozens of local protestors outside the Manor Pharmacy in Southdown. - Credit: Archant

Demonstrators protesting outside a Harpenden pharmacy claimed its closure would be a “disaster” for the area.

Manor Pharmacy in Southdown is under threat of closure due to government cuts, with £113 million slashed from pharmacy funding in December and a further seven per cent set to be cut in 2017/2018.

Concerned residents rallied together with placards in Southdown Road today to try and protect the independent pharmacy, which is the only one serving the area of Southdown.

Dorothea Elliott, who lives in Grove Avenue, said: “It’s ridiculous. There’s four in Harpenden [town centre] and they want to close this one.

“I know people that live further along and it’s hard to get to Harpenden to get a prescription. A lot of them are elderly and it’s stupid. I have been here 50-something years and there’s always been a chemist here.”

Fiona Bull, who lives in Pipers Lane, uses the pharmacy to treat her horses and dogs. She said: “The pharmacy is a lynch pin for the community. I use the pharmacy not only to service my family but also my animals because there’s a lot of drug overlap between human and veterinary medicine and frequently it’s cheaper for me to get a prescription from Manor Pharmacy.

“It’s an invaluable service.”

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The pharmacy’s closure may also have an impact on other small businesses in the area. Karl Jelley, who owns the butchers next door, Jelley’s Meats, said; “We are all independent so it would be detrimental to all the businesses down here.

“We’re all dependent on each other. You’ve got independent shops everywhere and it doesn’t look good for other businesses. It becomes a blot on the landscape and people don’t want to go in.

Reverend Gill Hulme, the minister of Southdown Methodist Church, said: “It will be an absolute disaster for this area. A number of my members are in sheltered accommodation and they can manage to come here and get their prescriptions. If they had to go into Harpenden they’d have to get a taxi both ways.

“It’s a vital community service we have got here and we’d be totally devastated if it was to close.”

Stephen Fishwick, head of communications at the St Albans-based National Pharmacy Association, said: “There’s a contradiction in government policy which is to encourage people to visit their local pharmacy and not unnecessarily visit their GPs but on the other hand forcing pharmacies to reduce or even close their services.”

Graham Phillips, who is the superintendent of Manor Pharmacy, said: “Pharmacies support 1.2 million people; they are the largest single interaction the NHS has.

“If you cut pharmacies it will add to problems with GPs and A&E departments. It costs the NHS £25 when people call 111 and it costs £250 when people visit A&E but if someone phones the pharmacy for advice it costs the NHS nothing.”