Letter from Gareth Thomas MP, Member of Parliament for Harrow West to Jeremy Hunt MP, Secretary of State for Health on the risks faced by community pharmacies
I am writing regarding the recent announcement that community pharmacies will face a 12% cut on current funding levels for the rest of this financial year, and a 7.4% cut on current levels the year after.
As you know, considerable concern has been raised by pharmacists and many of their customers and service users, about the likely impact of these cuts.
The Government’s own estimate suggests that as many as 1 in 4 pharmacies are at risk of closure as a result of these cuts. In Harrow, 15 community pharmacies will be significantly hit by this cut, based on an analysis of their dispensing rates carried out by the House of Commons Library. The Middlesex Group of LPCs have advised me that they believe a further 8 pharmacies will also be severely impacted and may be at risk of closure.
Like many of my constituents, I sometimes have cause to visit community pharmacies, and am always reminded of the valuable service they provide. Pharmacies provide very important face to face health services, particularly for the elderly, disabled and those with long term illnesses.
Any pharmacy closures or service cutbacks will only cause extra pressure to be piled on already overstretched GP and A&E services. At a time when the Care Quality Commission have described adult social care services as being at a ‘tipping point’, with more than 1 million adults with unmet care needs, some of whom subsequently require acute care because they go without care, it beggars belief that the Government intends to cut further the services that people rely on.
A recent PwC report shows that community pharmacies contributed a net value of £3 billion to the NHS, public sector, patients and wider society in England in 2015 through just 12 services, over and above dispensing medicines. This means that community pharmacies deliver substantially more in benefits than they receive in compensation, providing excellent value to the Department of Health. Much of this additional benefit is derived from the good-will of community pharmacies to conduct services for which they are not remunerated.
Not only would the closure of pharmacies have a severe and harmful impact on my constituents who use and rely on these services, but the short term savings are likely to only increase costs in the long term given the additional pressure on other public services.
Even at this late stage, I ask you to reconsider these damaging cuts, and ensure that community pharmacies are not put at risk of closure.
Given the significant local interest and concern regarding this issue, I am releasing this letter to local media.
Gareth Thomas MP