Imran has demanded assurances from the Department for Health in Parliament that pharmacies serving vulnerable groups will not be forced to close by changes to their funding.
Following the announcement of plans to save £22 billion in the NHS by 2020/21, the Government revealed in December 2015 that they will be seeking to reduce the funding settlement awarded to community pharmacies by 6%, bringing the final figure for 2016/17 to £2.6 billion.
Whilst the Department for Health insists that the cuts will be made through efficiency savings, the Royal Pharmaceutical Society have warned that the changes will have a substantial impact on pharmacies and Imran has warned in a letter to the Health Secretary that changes in funding could lead to closures and possible reductions in the safe, high-quality services expected by patients.
Due to the substantial role that pharmacies play within the community healthcare system through providing medical advice and in preventing ill-health as well dispensing medications, there is considerable concern that closures will leave already isolated and vulnerable communities with a record of health inequality detached from the healthcare system, and that according to the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee, pharmacies will be forced to direct more people to already overstretched GPs.
Although the Government have committed to looking at a ‘Pharmacy Access Scheme’ which will allocate additional funding based on a formula which analyses geographic importance taking into account travel times, distances, population sizes and needs, along with deprivation levels, Imran has raised concerns about the level of funding which the Government are prepared to allocate to the Scheme and how the formula will be implemented, calling on the Minister for Social Care to provide assurances that pharmacies serving vulnerable groups would not be forced to close.
Speaking on pharmacy funding, Imran said:
“Pharmacies are not only an important feature of our communities but they also play a significant role in our community healthcare system through dispensing advice as well as medication and taking pressure off of our already overstretched GPs, and I believe that any move to cut funding to pharmacies will hurt those with mobility issues and those experiencing health inequality the greatest.
“I acknowledge that the Government have recognised that the potential closure of pharmacies serving vulnerable groups is a real issue by including the Pharmacy Access Scheme in their consultation, but they now have to properly ensure that following the consultation, a well organised and watertight formula is adopted to ensure that pharmacies who serve these groups are adequately protected against funding changes.
“I’m also concerned that despite the Pharmacy Access Scheme featuring in their consultation, the Department for Health was unable to answer my questions on how much funding has been planned to be made available by the Department, as it is only with adequate funding that the Scheme and the formula will work, meaning the difference between continued or lost access to healthcare for many people.”