World news wrapup: 5 March 2020

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Funding cuts claim 95-year-old pharmacy; Northern Irish pharmacists at “breaking point;” sanctions after flu jab/insulin mixup

Bolton, England: A pharmacy has been open at a site in Bennetts Lane, Bolton since 1915 – but thanks to the UK’s controversial funding cuts to the sector, it’s set to close.

The closure of the current business, Lee’s Pharmacy, is likely to be a “big blow” for locals, particularly older people, reports the Manchester Evening News.

Crompton councillor Martin McMulkin said that, “it is a very sad loss to the local community, especially some of the elderly customers, one of which has been using the chemist for 80 years”.

Chimin Patel, superintendent pharmacist at Sykes Pharmacy – which runs several Bolton businesses, including Lee’s – said that the Bennetts Lane site will be merged with another pharmacy in Bolton, with staff to relocate there.

“We never thought this day would come, but for the last 18 months pharmacy funding cuts have affected the viability of the pharmacy and its existence,” he told the News.

“It’s been a very challenging climate for all pharmacies in England and for Lee’s Pharmacy this has become financially unviable so one of the options we have taken is to merge the pharmacy with our sister branch Haslam’s Pharmacy, in Halliwell Road.”


Northern Ireland: The Irish News reports that pharmacists are at “breaking point” over funding pressures, and have almost unanimously voted to take industrial action.

At a closed meeting, 98% of contractors – representing 418 pharmacies in Northern Ireland – backed the action, which was described by Health Minister Robin Swann as “regrettable and surprising”.

He asked Community Pharmacy Northern Ireland, which represents the contractors, to reconsider.

Gerard Greene, chief executive of Community Pharmacy NI, rejected the Minister’s call.

“We have been warning the department for years of this growing crisis. A litany of unresolved issues stemming from sustained underfunding now means that community pharmacists have reached breaking point,” he said.

“The decision to take action is not one reached lightly and we regret that the refusal of the department to address this crisis has brought us to this, but our network is at the point where the safe delivery of crucial frontline services for patients could be compromised.”


Oklahoma City, Oklahoma: A pharmacist has had his licence suspended indefinitely after he was alleged to have given nine people insulin injections instead of the influenza vaccine.

Dr James Sutterfield fronted the Oklahoma Board of Pharmacy on Wednesday, reports Fox 6 Now, where it was decided that his license would be suspended immediately, and that he be prohibited from giving vaccine shots or dispensing medicines.

The complaint against Dr Sutterfield alleges that after all nine people were hospitalised after the mixup, he realised what had happened and then disposed of some of the vaccine to hide the error.

“This is the first infraction that he’s come upon. Bad decisions and sometimes accidents do happen,” said Oklahoma Board of Pharmacy Executive Director Marty Hendrick. “We have to take into account all those things that revolve around it.”


UK: The UK’s communications regulator, Ofcom, has decided against investigating complaints about comments aired on ITV’s This Morning, in which pharmacists were called “pretend doctors”.

Earlier this year, the show aired a segment titled, “Should chemists tell their customers they are fat?” in which journalist and broadcaster Sam Delany made the remarks concerned.

The show faced a huge backlash over the comments, with more than 3000 complaints made to Ofcom – making it one of the top 10 most complained-about shows in the last 10 years.

Pharmacy Business spoke to an Ofcom representative who said that Mr Delaney’s comments were balanced by those made by other guests.

“While we understand that some viewers were offended, we took into account that the presenter and another guest challenged his opinions during the discussion,” the spokesperson said.

“We also considered that the content was within the likely expectations of viewers of this program, which regularly features guests exchanging conflicting personal views on topical issues.”

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