Pharmacists have warned that local services are ‘close to the edge.’
The news comes after leading practitioners expressed concerns that strike action will force staff to fill gaps left by doctors and nurses.
Pharmacies are increasingly consulted by patients looking for common treatments as well as specialist advice. However, fears are growing that 25 percent real terms cuts in NHS contract funding could lead to another rash of closures.
Industry bodies The National Pharmacy Association and the Company Chemists Association say that NHS community pharmacist recruitment has failed to deliver the 30,000 pharmacists required to plug the gaps in service provision.
The CEO of Company Chemists’ Association at Boots pharmacy, Malcolm Harrison, said: ‘Our experience from COVID shows that when other parts of the system shut down, people go to where is still open, and that’s pharmacies.
‘The problem we have got,’ he continued, ‘is that more and more people coming in puts more and more pressure on the pharmacy teams, and there is no money there to fund it, or to get more people in to deal with that pressure.’
The sector is already under considerable strain as a result of a spike in the prices of antibiotics stimulated by an outbreak in cases of Strep A – a bacterial infection that causes pain and swelling in the throat. Last Saturday, Sky News revealed that an anonymous source in the pharmaceutical industry had told them that the price of Amoxicillin had steepled from 80p to £18.
However, in a guest appearance on the BBC’s Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg, the medical director of NHS England, Sir Stephen Powis, said that the service has ‘plenty of antibiotics.’
‘The supply chain works really well,’ he said, before commenting that he expects to see supplies ‘coming out to pharmacies as we speak.’
The Workers Union Says…
Pharmacists are an essential, but often overlooked, part of the health service. They provide patients who would otherwise struggle to get a GP’s appointment with expert advice. They are the human face of a service that is desperately overwhelmed.
In such circumstances, we do not have the luxury of allowing these hard-working people to struggle on unsupported.
Some people will argue that fixing the problem is simply a question of scarce resources. They will say that the pharmacy sector must learn more thrift, must make 3 go into 2, must fit a pint glass in a tumbler. But money is the second phase of the conversation. Positive dialogue is the driver of all progress and is an essential first step on the road to recovery.
Politicians and healthcare bosses have the chance to come together to reach a set of mutually agreed solutions. Now is the time to grab the opportunity to support the local services that so many working people rely on.