Harpenden community pharmacy boss accuses Government of 'discrimination'
PUBLISHED: 06:08 21 October 2016
There is fury in St Albans over news that pharmacy funding talks have broken down following confirmation that the Department of Health wants to press ahead with swingeing cuts.
Graham Phillips, owner of Manor Pharmacy Group, has accused Government of ‘discrimination’ against community pharmacies, with patients at risk of reduced services as a result of slashed funding.
The second-generation pharmacist runs seven pharmacies in Herts, including in Harpenden and Wheathampstead, after following in his father’s footsteps.
He has been fighting plans announced by the government late last year to change the contractual framework for community pharmacies.
The community pharmacy sector has rejected government plans to implement initial funding cuts of 12 per cent, followed by a further 7.4 per cent for 2017/18, which could result in the closure of scores of pharmacies, and the removal of free health services.
Officials want to divert funding from local pharmacies to the likes of online suppliers of medicines, and have been consulting with organisations about those plans.
However, despite a concerted campaign by the likes of Graham and the St Albans-based National Pharmacy Association (NPA), a petition signed by two million people has failed to sway the powers-that-be at the Department of Health to put a halt to such moves.
The Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee has rejected the department’s proposed funding package for 2016/17 which, if implemented, will see patients suffer as services are withdrawn.
Criticising the government for “discrimination against community pharmacies”, Graham said the latest revelations had left him, “shocked and disappointed. I’m despairing – it is political vandalism”.
He said the health care sector was boosted by services provided by independently run community pharmacies like his, but “the government has refused to work with us, and they have ignored a petition signed by two million people.
“We have been stitched up. This has been done in ignorance. I employ 150 people; I have rent to pay – I can’t just walk away from 150 people, so you just have to soldier on.”
Graham is encouraging local people to speak out against the funding cuts, by contacting local MPs.
Ian Strachan, the NPA’s chairman, accused the government of, “betraying its promises and showing a complete disregard for the wellbeing of patients. Millions of worried patients have asked the Department of Health to think again.
“Politicians from all parties are against the cuts. Yet elements within Government seem determined to press ahead with this damaging experiment, deaf to the nationwide protests.”
Ian said that pharmacies could not deliver more if they have to cut back on staff, adding, “they cannot deliver a service if they have been forced to close. We have seen no official assessment from Government of what the consequences will be for patient care, although we know full well that people will suffer, including some of the most vulnerable people in our society.”
Pharmacy Minister David Mowat MP yesterday (Thursday, October 20), announced the funding cuts in the House of Commons.
Ian Strachan said: “This is slap in the face for hardworking pharmacy teams and for concerned patients.
“The Minister’s statement to MPs [yesterday] that services will improve as a result of these massive cuts flies in the face of logic. The Government is not listening to the common sense arguments.
“We want to engage in a programme of investment and improvement which builds on the strengths of our sector rather than seeks to dismantle it. The Government has said it wants to see pharmacies do more in urgent care and long term conditions - now they must prove that they mean it, by changing course and investing in the sector for the long term.”