Government funding cuts threaten community pharmacies in St Albans

Graham Phillips outside Manor Pharmacy

Graham Phillips outside Manor Pharmacy - Credit: Archant

The slashing of government funding which could cut the number of community pharmacies has major implications for patients in St Albans, a pharmacist has warned.

Graham Phillips, owner of Manor Pharmacy Group, said it was a ‘huge worry’ that the government was set on delivering a financial blow to community pharmacies, threatening to reduce funding in 2016/17 by £170 million.

The second-generation pharmacist runs seven pharmacies in Herts, including in Harpenden and Wheathampstead, after following in his father’s footsteps.

His concern has been echoed by the National Pharmacy Association (NPA), which supports independent community pharmacies like Graham’s, and is based in St Peter’s Street, St Albans.

The NPA has been asking pharmacy teams to gather evidence to show politicians and officials that local pharmacies are much more than a distribution point for medicines. A petition to stop such cuts has already gathered tens of thousands of signatures.

The government announced late last year that it wanted to change the contractual framework for community pharmacies.

The Department of Health (DoH) said it believed there were are up to 3,000 too many pharmacies in England.

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Officials have proposed measures to divert funding from local pharmacies to the likes of online suppliers of medicines and, until the end of May, has been consulting with organisations about its plans.

Graham said his father inspired him to become a pharmacist, because he could see his role at the heart of the community, and people held him in ‘high esteem’.

While he understood the government’s need to “balance the budget”, he warned it was in essence a false economy.

Graham, who employs about 80 people in Herts, explained: “Every time you remove a community pharmacy, you don’t remove the demand.

“That just moves on to A&E departments and GPs, and pushing more people towards them will not streamline health care services. Pharmacies help reduce the number of needless GP appointments.”

He said that pharmacies like his complemented current services, as they repeatedly helped people with minor ailments, which prevented A&E from being unnecessarily ‘clogged up’.

Graham has written passionately about the government’s “assault on community pharmacies” in The Pharmaceutical Journal, where he said he was “appalled at the fait accompli decision announced with such callous disregard for our profession to slash the funding of community pharmacy.

“As the funding reduction will not kick in until September [this year], this effectively means pharmacies will see a net 12 per cent reduction in their NHS income in the second half of the financial year.

“In a further gratuitous move, it is being suggested that establishment payments (given to pharmacies that dispense more than 2,500 prescriptions a month) will be withdrawn.

“At a time when the GP network is severely stressed and close to collapse in many parts of the country, what sane person would intentionally crush the community pharmacy network, leaving struggling surgeries and accident and emergency departments to cope with the fall out?”

The NPA said that by last Thursday (7), the ‘Support Your Local Pharmacy’ campaign petition had broken through a half a million signatures milestone, with numbers rising by an average 25,000 signatures each day.

Chairman Ian Strachan said: “We warned the government this wasn’t going to be the walk in the park they were perhaps expecting. It must be made very clear to the DoH that its plans are not acceptable to patients and concerned citizens across the country.”

For more information and to sign an e-petition see or use #lovemypharmacy on Twitter.