‘It’s about ripping up the profession’

Pharmacy in the UK wasn’t celebrating Christmas following the December 17 open letter outlining the cuts which may lead to the closure of up to a quarter of English pharmacies and “rip up the profession,” say PSNC’s Mark Burdon and Ian Strachan, chairman of the UK’s National Pharmacy Association, in giving the Alan Russell Oration at APP2016 today.

The session was sponsored by PDL and introduced by PDL’s Dean Schulze and the Guild’s Anthony Tassone and George Tambassis.

The two say the NHS has a $22b deficit and demand on the service has never been greater; what started as a Treasury grab through cuts has, however, evolved into a threat to the bricks and mortar pharmacy model.

A December 17 open letter to PSNC highlighted the plans. It was announced into the public domain as opposed to the usual negotiations with pharmacy stakeholders.

The Pharmacy Minister is on record as saying he expects to see between 1000 and 3000 pharmacies, up to nearly a quarter of pharmacies in England, close.

Burdon told the APP2016 conference that “this is all about a move to online and the click and collect model”.

“We know that this is about moving towards this commoditisation, this online digitisation of the service.”

This represents an Amazonisation of medicines supply, he says – for example, it’s planned that scripts will need to be filled far less often, cutting out potential for pharmacist care.

This will lead to shortages and distortions in the supply chain, Burdon says.

Decision-makers don’t seem to understand what pharmacists do in pharmacies, he says, and so PSNC is aiming to quantify the social good provided by pharmacies in its battle against the funding decision.

“We’ve come to them with a counter-proposal,” he says, looking at other ways to make savings.

Strachan then said that the scope and scale of the changes are so huge that UK pharmacy should have at least been consulted, rather than receiving an open letter which outlined an intended done deal. Pharmacy has solutions, he says, and is in a far better position to manage volume and therefore cost.

“The Government has got the arrogance to try and rip up a profession… This is what this is about, it’s about breaking up a profession.”

This is rooted in ideology and a desire for automation and digitisation, Strachan says.

The cuts are “an attack on the owner model,” he says and effectively attempt to sever service from supply.

“This is why I get so angry about this nonsense,” he says.

Strachan says that while he and other stakeholders aren’t averse to the hub and spoke model, where medicines are sent out predispensed from the hub, the spoke – the bricks and mortar pharmacy – must remain a key part of health provision.

One to three thousand pharmacies may close, he says, “But my take is that it’s going to be a lot more than that. Could you imagine the demand that’s going to go across GPs if you do that?”


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