Earlier this month, Alistair Burt, the Minister said he could not be certain about the number of pharmacy closures as this would depend in part on the response of the sector to the Government plans, but that it could be between 1,000 and 3,000.
However, Dr Mark Spencer, co-chair designate of NHS Alliance, said it is “quite astonishing” that the government seems to accept that up to one-in-four high street pharmacies could close, particularly as Jeremy Hunt has stressed on multiple occasions that the sustainability of the NHS lies in developing out of hospital care, and a focus on prevention.
The cut aims to save 0.14% of the annual NHS budget, however “the services and expertise we risk losing have the potential to save far greater NHS resource in the long run,” Spencer – who is also a GP in Fleetwood – added.
This comes after last month the Department of Health announcing that funding for community pharmacy in 2016/17 will be cut by £170m, and stated that it “believes those efficiencies can be made within community pharmacy without compromising the quality of services or patient access to them.”
The government said that there are “more pharmacies than are necessary to maintain good access. 40% of pharmacies are in clusters of 3 or more meaning that two-fifths of pharmacies are within 10 minutes walk of 2 or more other pharmacies.”
But, Spencer argued: “Studies have shown that community pharmacists are the most accessible healthcare professional to the majority of the population, and accessibility is greatest in areas of high deprivation.
“Closing high street pharmacies is likely to widen health inequalities in the most deprived areas of the country, but it will also have the knock on effect of increasing demand on general practice, at a time when GPs are already struggling with capacity and recruitment,” the GP stated.