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Pharmacy closures ‘a national shame and betrayal of the elderly and vulnerable’

The loss of hundreds of community pharmacies in recent years is “a national shame and betrayal of the elderly and vulnerable,” industry leaders said.

National bodies and MPs will demand urgent action this week to resolve the financial crisis that is forcing chemists to close their doors forever.

About 11,000 community pharmacies in England receive about 90% of their income from the NHS.

But officials say the value of the five-year contract, awarded in 2019, has been severely undermined by record inflation and higher energy and drug costs.

At least 720 community pharmacies have closed since 2015, according to a recent report from the company’s Association of Chemists.

The crisis comes at a time when they are increasingly acting as the front door to the NHS, where patients can seek advice on non-urgent issues without an appointment.

Dr. Leila Hannbeck, executive director of the Association of Independent Pharmacies (AIM), said: “They say you don’t know what you have until it’s gone. This is how the British public will feel when another 1,000 pharmacies close their doors for good.

“What is happening in England is a national disgrace and a betrayal of the elderly, the vulnerable or those who do not have the means to live independently in their own homes.

“Public pharmacies are located in the hottest spots of settlements. They are trusted, respected and empowered to alleviate many of the problems our National Health Service faces. We need to save our pharmacies.”

More than 50 MPs will sound the alarm this week in a letter to the prime minister, led by the All Party Pharmaceutical Group.

Rishi Sunak often spoke of helping his mother at a pharmacy in Southampton as a child, and credited his time there with shaping “the values ​​I want to bring to government”.

The letter highlights the role that pharmacies can play in reducing the burden on other parts of the struggling health service, allowing hospitals to focus on closing backlogs. But he warns that significant labor shortages and insufficient funding mean their potential is not being realized.

Among those who signed the deal were former Conservative cabinet ministers Caroline Dinenage and Jackie Doyle-Price, and patient safety advocate Baroness Cumberledge.

APPG chairman, Labor MP and pharmacist MP Taiwo Owatemi, said the opportunity to stop this financial crisis was “quickly slipping away”.

She added: “A twin disaster is looming as more local pharmacies close permanently and their NHS assistance potential is lost.

“Pharmacy teams have the skills and knowledge to help more patients and improve access to primary health care, but only if they are given the funding and resources to do so.

“This letter, signed by more than 50 parliamentarians, shows the level of support for pharmacy in Parliament. If the country is to capitalize on all that the pharmacy has to offer in the future, we need this support to be extended to ministers and the Treasury.”

A recent APPG report found that community pharmacies now account for a smaller percentage of total health care spending than at any time since the founding of the NHS in 1948.

After adjusting for inflation, the cost of an NHS pharmacy contract in England has reportedly dropped by a quarter since 2015.

Four national pharmaceutical bodies – AIM, the Chemical Companies Association (CCA), the National Pharmaceutical Association and the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiation Committee – have also launched the Save Our Pharmacies campaign.

They are asking members of the public to join the fight by signing the petition.

He is calling on the government to provide fair and sustainable funding to ensure the long-term future of pharmacies and to put in place Pharmacy First, which will allow more patients with mild illnesses to be treated by their pharmacist, easing the burden on general practitioners.

In a joint statement, the organizations said pharmacies can help the NHS get back on its feet, “but not when the sector itself is on its knees.”

They added: “The government can continue to cut funding for pharmacies and let patients suffer the inevitable consequences of cuts in services and pharmacies; or they can invest in this popular, profitable, entrepreneurial sector and empower pharmacies to help solve many of the challenges facing our healthcare service.

“If the current situation continues, then the main blow will be borne by patients, especially those who are in disadvantaged areas.

“Without immediate investment, pharmacy closures will not only accelerate, but access to primary care will also worsen, pushing the NHS into an even deeper crisis.”

CCA Executive Director Malcolm Harrison urged Mr. Sunak to “support community pharmacies for the benefit of patients and society.”

He added: “The community pharmacy is stuck between a rock and a hard place. The sector has the potential to do more to relieve the burden on GPs and other overstretched parts of the NHS.

“Unfortunately our ambition is being stifled by years of underfunding, now estimated at around £67,000 a year per pharmacy.”

A spokesman for the Department of Health and Welfare said: “Community pharmacies play a vital role in supporting the NHS and we give them £2.6 billion a year.

“We have also announced a further £100 million investment in the sector to support pharmacies with a wider range of services.”

To sign the petition, click here.

Medicine shortage puts pressure on staff

His local pharmacy is a lifeline for David Dries, who needs a variety of medications for ailments such as diabetes, prostate cancer and Alzheimer’s.

The 71-year-old visits Zina’s Pharmacy in Kenley, south London, every couple of weeks to pick up his latest prescriptions.

When asked how important the services provided there were, he replied simply: “I would die [without them]. I’m on about 14 medications now, so I’m on a regular basis.”

David, who also takes heart pills, has noticed the growing pressure on the friendly staff who serve him.

They are often criticized by patients who are frustrated that they have to wait for a prescription or that drugs are not available due to shortages.

David said: “I saw a lot of people who came and were very upset, they were screaming and moaning. During Covid it was especially bad.”

About 7,000 items are issued monthly at the Zina pharmacy, which is part of the Medipharmacy group.

Risha Bhuwad, 32, is head of the company’s pharmacy and oversees 25 pharmacies in London, many of which are family owned.

She said: “It is not unusual for us to have a patient scream or scream because something is not available.

“We are well trained and we understand that if patients are unwell, they can get upset. But there were times when they trashed the store when they left.”

Community pharmacies are increasingly acting as the front door to the NHS, where patients can seek help for non-urgent concerns without an appointment.

In addition to writing prescriptions, they provide services such as vaccinations, blood pressure checks and medical consultations.

Ms Bhuwad said “there is no limit to the possibilities” when it comes to the role they can play in keeping the nation healthy. However, she warned that funding has not kept pace with demand.

“When pharmacies close, we are no longer shocked,” Ms Bhuwad said.

“The traditional pharmacy model is no longer what it used to be, we are doing a lot more, and this needs to be recognized and fairly valued.”

Serious problems are also the lack of staff and medicines. Pharmacy leaders have asked for more authority to change prescriptions and offer alternative medicines when they are out of stock.

Ms Bhuwad said: “Community pharmacists are the medical experts and we should be recognized as such.

“If we need an amendment to a prescription, in most cases I call the doctor and say: “This is out of stock, I would advise you to write it on the spot.”

“Why should we wait for the doctor to call us back if we know what alternatives are?”

Terry Thorpe, 35, a non-pharmacist who is the manager of Zina, has seen “dramatic” changes in her 17 years in the field.

She said: “We are the center of the community and we love our job, but we have to work and get the job done.

“We don’t have the funding to be able to hire more employees or stay open longer.”

Ms Thorp urged ministers to invest in pharmacies to stem their decline. She added: “If we are forced to close or reduce our hours because we can’t afford to stay open, then it will not only affect our lives, but also our patients.”

Main streets without pharmacies are becoming a sad reality, says Dr. Leila Hannbeck

Born from the days of the old apothecaries and giving rise to the modern general practice, this is your local pharmacy.

Admired and respected by the population, pharmacies have brought care and professionalism to the local population for centuries, but right now local pharmacies are fighting for their lives.

Try to imagine a big street without a pharmacy. Even worse, think about what the whole city would be like if there were no pharmacy. This is the reality we are facing.

Nearly 800 pharmacies have closed so far, and hundreds more will close for good this year.

Patients who have relied on a pharmacy for a prescription, who have sought and received verified, expert advice on all sorts of medical conditions, must go to the next pharmacy, which can be difficult if you are retired, pregnant, vulnerable, or simply unable to afford transportation.

Supermarket groups have also made it clear they are backing down, unable to make the amounts work. The same goes for big chains. Lloyds is currently reviewing the future of all 1,300 of its branches. At what point will the government sit down and notice?

Pharmacies are disappearing because they are vastly underfunded and can no longer bear the costs.

Bureaucracy, recruitment difficulties, internet competition, gloomy city centres, onerous rates for businesses, only upward revisions in rents, drug shortages and rising drug costs, abuse by customers who are dissatisfied with the lack of their drugs, pressure from the NHS on them to provide additional services for less money – this is a long list, but this is what they have to deal with on a daily basis.

Is it any wonder, then, that more and more people are saying “enough”?

Our pharmacies are uniquely empowered to alleviate many of the problems that the overburdened, overburdened National Health Service and Primary Health Care are now facing and offer taxpayers the best value for money.

Ministers say they love us, that they really want us to be the solution to free up GP time and ease the pressure on emergency departments. In this case, show it with real actions – sit with us, listen to us and give us what we need to stay open so that we can continue to serve and help our communities.

Banality and the promise of a new dawn will not save pharmacies, save actions.

– Dr. Leila Hannbeck, Executive Director of the Association of Independent Pharmacies.

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