St Albans MP calls for action to support independent pharmacies

Graham Phillips, Director at Manor Pharmacy

Graham Phillips, Director at Manor Pharmacy - Credit: Archant

A unanimous vote in favour of independent pharmacies followed a packed meeting last week to hear about the impact of reductions in government funding.

The meeting was organised by the St Albans and Harpenden Patient Group (SAPG) and attracted not just concerned residents of the district but from further afield as well including Borehamwood and Radlett.

The government slashed around £113 million from pharmacy funding in December with a further seven per cent in the pipeline in 2017/18. It has particularly hit community pharmacies with local pharmacist Graham Phillips, who has warned that his premises in Southdown will have to close, at the forefront of the campaign to reverse the decision.

His concerns were taken up by St Albans MP Anne Main last month. Speaking in a debate in the House of Commons she said that reductions in government funding could cause some small pharmacists ‘to go to the wall’.

They would then cease to provide advice and support to patients, more of whom would go to GPs and A&E, putting more strain on services already struggling to cope.

Graham Phillips, together with Rachel Solanki from Quadrant Pharmacy and Helen Musson of the Local Pharmacy Committee, put the arguments to the SAPG meeting.

They explained that by reducing its financial support to pharmacies the government hoped to make savings to its health budget but the policy would have several obvious disadvantages.

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One would be that if independent (non-chain) pharmacies closed, patients needing prescriptions would have to travel longer distances which would place a particular burden on the elderly and immobile.

In addition, the policy of reducing support and so risking the closure of such pharmacies, contradicted the government’s other policy of using pharmacies to provide advice and support for patients.

If that was no longer available, not only would GPs and A&E feel the strain but those services were more expensive to provide than pharmacies, so the government’s spending would actually rise.

A survey carried out by SAPG revealed that patients in the district supported the continued existence of independent pharmacies, serving the members of the local community near to their homes.

The audience expressed their support for independent pharmacists in numerous comments and questions and the meeting ended with a unanimous vote of support and a call for the government to reverse its policy of reducing financial support.