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LPC conference: Minister rebuffed as PSNC hits back

Pharmacy minister David Mowat has made it clear there will be no going back on the imposed funding arrangements for contractors in England, announced last month.

Speaking at today’s (November 2) LPC conference in London, he said there was nothing he could say to reverse the decision. “I cannot undo the things you don’t like,” he told delegates.

“I am committed to working with the sector and fully understand the value of the community pharmacy network. It is clear to me how well respected you are in Government. Let there be no ambiguity about that, neither of our intention to move to a future shaped around [clinical] services, not dispensing alone.”

It is important that community pharmacy is better integrated within primary care and better use made of pharmacists’ skills. That is why the Government wants to see locally commissioned pharmacy minor ailment services across the country and increase the number of pharmacists in GP surgeries. Mr Mowat also said he was “attracted” to the Scottish community pharmacy model.

Bruised and betrayed

However, PSNC chief executive Sue Sharpe told him community pharmacists felt “bruised, betrayed and badly let down”. Decisions had been made out of ignorance and without a clear understanding of the sector, she said.

“We understand that savings are needed, but this is not the way to go about it. This is folly. It is bad policy and this view is shared by large numbers of MPs, organisations and members of the public.”

The imposition had been a “body blow”, but the sector will continue to challenge what it considered to be poor and ill-informed policy decisions. Unity from the sector is also essential in opposing the cuts. “We must hang together or we will all hang separately.”

Ms Sharpe called on the Department of Health to use the cuts from the community pharmacy budget to fund a national pharmacy minor ailments service, rather than a series of local schemes as had been proposed.  The latter makes no sense because they lack consistency. “Only a national service will relieve the pressure on beleaguered primary care services.”

PSNC had endured “the worst series of negotiations anyone could remember,” she said. There had been no sign of a collaborative approach from the Department of Health. “It was a one-way street; every proposal [from us] was blocked.”

She was “absolutely clear” the Government wants to see pharmacy closures and a significant “thinning out” of the network. However, this was not the end of it.

“We may have lost the battle, but must take care not to lose the war,” she said. PSNC is taking legal advice about what action to take next and all options are open. “We rejected the [Government’s funding] offer because it was essential that we didn’t roll over on this.”

Although talk of strike action was very unwise, “pharmacy will not be the doormat of the NHS”, she warned.

This is bad policy and we must stand up and say so



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