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HDA Media And Political Bulletin – 23 May 2016

The campaign against the cuts to community pharmacy funding announced by the UK Government is gaining momentum in UK media.

 

Claire Ward, chair of Pharmacy Voice, was a guest on the BBC Radio 4 Today programme this morning. Pharmacy Voice published new research commissioned by Dispensing Health Equality which found that 1 in 4 people would who would normally seek advice first from their local pharmacy on common ailments would instead make an appointment with their GP practice.

 

The Sunday Express reported on the increasing pressure faced by Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt to not go ahead with the planned £170million of funding cuts.

 

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Closures of community pharmacies in deprived areas could be “catastrophic” and place an “untenable” burden on local GPs, warn leading health organisations

23 May 2016, Pharmacy Voice

 

New research by YouGov commissioned for Dispensing Health Equality, published today by Pharmacy Voice, shows that, if faced with a closure, more than one in four people (29%) who would normally seek advice first from their local pharmacy on common ailments would instead make an appointment with their GP practice. According to NHS research, this rises to as many as four in five people in areas of high deprivation such as Fleetwood in Lancashire.

 

The government has indicated that its proposals will lead to up to one in four local pharmacies closing[1]. The report argues that an uplift in GP appointments is untenable in any part of the country, but especially so in those areas that find it difficult to attract GPs in the first place.

 

This will affect communities such as Fleetwood and Easington Lane, a former coal mining village where there is no GP surgery, and just one local pharmacy serving the needs of more than 2,000 people.  The report urges the government to take note of this in context of its proposed funding cuts, and seeks reassurance that in both urban and rural areas of high deprivation access to this much needed community asset will be protected.

 

Dr Mark Spencer, a GP in Fleetwood Lancashire, co-chair, NHS Alliance, and himself a coal miner’s son, comments: “At a time when there is an entirely unacceptable widening gap in life expectancy between rich and poor[2], extreme pressure on GPs, and increasing public awareness of the role pharmacy is playing in delivering services to support public health, it would be catastrophic if the areas that most need it, are deprived of access to this crucial community asset. Easington Lane and Fleetwood are two cases in point.”

 

Perspectives from Easington and Fleetwood are included in the report, which argues that “good health follows a social gradient: life expectancy increases according to postcode rather than genetic code”.

 

This comes into sharp focus after the age of 60, when the life expectancy gap is more than 30 years between those living in affluent areas and those living in deprived ones, according to research published last week by Cass Business School[3].  Described as the ‘inverse care law’[4], the country’s most deprived areas are frequently under-doctored, which can exacerbate health inequalities and life expectancy. Community pharmacy offers a ‘positive care law[5]’. Local pharmacies, a health hub offering expert advice and support from highly trained healthcare professionals without an appointment, are within a 20 minute walk of almost 100 per cent of people. The government’s plans may adversely affect this positive care law.

 

The report states: “The underlying reasons for health inequalities are complex but recent research indicates the immediate causes are predicated on “lifestyle choices’ such as smoking[6]. Research by Durham University[7] has shown that most people in England can get to a community pharmacy easily, with the greatest access in deprived areas. This means our high street pharmacies could be key in tackling some of society’s major public health concerns such as obesity, smoking and alcohol.” A recent study published in BMJ Open stated: “Community pharmacy-delivered interventions are effective for smoking cessation, and demonstrate that the pharmacy is a feasible option for weight management interventions. Given the potential reach, effectiveness and associated costs of these interventions, commissioners should consider using community pharmacies to help deliver public health services.”[8]

 

Hunt faces fury over plan to axe 3,000 chemists

22 May 2016, The Sunday Express, Caroline Wheeler

 

BELEAGUERED Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt was under pressure last night to ditch £170million of funding cuts that could lead to the closure of a quarter of our high street pharmacies.

 

He has been warned the cuts due to be implemented in October could force as many as 3,000 chemists to close, putting further pressure on already over stretched GP and emergency services.

 

Later this week the UK’s largest health petition, signed by more than a million people, will be presented to Downing Street, as Labour MP Michael Dugher takes the campaign to save high street chemists to the House of Commons.

 

Mr Dugher, who was sacked from the shadow cabinet in January after speaking out against Jeremy Corbyn, will lead a debate on the issue on Tuesday night.

 

He told the Sunday Express: “The Government’s plan to cut £170million from the community pharmacy budget is bad news for so many local communities.

 

“The Government’s own figures show that up to 3,000 community pharmacies or a quarter of all those in the country could be forced to close.

 

“It’s bad news for our NHS as it could drive more people to our already over stretched GPs and hospitals. It’s a false economy because community pharmacies save the NHS money.

 

“On Tuesday I’ll be joining with chemists, patients and a cross-party group of MPs to hand in a petition against the cuts signed by more than a million people.”

 

Robert Darracott, chief executive of Pharmacy Voice, the organisation behind the petition, said: “At a time when people trying to get a GP appointment are having to wait days or even weeks and there are continuing concerns about the pressure on our A&E departments, to threaten a network of 11,000 primary care providers across England in neighbourhoods close to where people live, work and shop, that are there providing an outlet to people and their immediate health concerns, seems to make little sense.

 

“We know that up to eight per cent of people who go to A&E departments could be managed by their community pharmacies and there are in excess of 50 million GP appointments taken by people with issues that could perfectly well be managed by their community pharmacy.”

 

Funding for chemists is almost all derived from the NHS with each allocated an annual budget depending on how many prescriptions it dispenses and other services it provides.

 

The cuts come as Mr Hunt and health officials urge people to make better use of pharmacies instead of seeing their doctor.

 

The Government has not earmarked any particular pharmacies for closure but health minister Alistair Burt warned MPs that up to 3,000 could shut.

 

Dr Keith Ridge, chief pharmaceutical officer for NHS England, said: “Community pharmacy is a vital part of the health and care system, and that’s why we are consulting on changes that will better integrate pharmacy into the NHS. We are looking at ways to make greater use of the skills of pharmacists in GP surgeries, A&E, care homes and other settings.

 

“We also have a responsibility to ensure we get the best use from our resources and 40 per cent of pharmacies are in clusters of three or more within 10 minutes of each other, each supported by NHS funds.

 

“These proposals will ensure we have a modern, efficient pharmacy sector which gives patients the support of pharmacy services when and where they need it.”

HDA Media And Political Bulletin – 23 May 2016

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