Cutting pharmacy funding could cost NHS billions

A new analysis shows up to £2billion is already spent on GP visits for issues that could be handled by pharmacists

As many as 3,000 community pharmacies in the UK are at risk of closure after the Department of Health announced it was slashing their funding by £170million, a decision widely condemned by pharmacy stakeholders in the UK.

UK pharmacists have been heartened by delays to the proposed cuts due to cabinet reshuffles, with new pharmacy minister David Mowat saying he needs more time to assess the situation before making a final decision.

A new analysis by the National Pharmacy Association (NPA) has now given the pharmacy sector more ammunition in the debate surrounding the cuts.

It found that up to £2billion is already spent on GP consultations for patients whose symptoms could be treated by a pharmacist – and that figure will increase if the cuts go ahead.

Based on the research, the NPA warns that UK GPs will be overwhelmed by patients demanding millions of extra appointments a year under the controversial plans, the Daily Express reports.

Meanwhile a separate report by accountancy firm PriceWaterhouseCoopers (PwC) found that pharmacists provide great economic value to in the UK, delivering more in benefits than they receive in government payments.

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, the report found.

“PwC’s research shows that community pharmacies punch above their weight in terms of economic value,” says Sue Sharpe, CEO of the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee.

“This is the evidence ministers need to make the case for continued investment in community pharmacies, developing these services even further to bring additional benefits to the NHS and wider society.

“[The] research shows that those services more than pay their own way. This is an excellent foundation on which to build new services to address England’s growing healthcare challenges,” she says.

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