Pharmacy cuts mean ‘survival of the fittest’

Hubert Figg Pharmacy, Berkhamsted
Hubert Figg Pharmacy, Berkhamsted

A pharmacist is calling on government health bosses to ‘work together’ with chemists on ground level in the wake of announcements to slash funding to the sector.

The Department of Health announced proposals to divert funding to online medical suppliers and other care providers just before Christmas last year, initially allowing just an eight week consultation window. This has now been extended to May 24.

Jay Odedra, main pharmacist at Hubert Figg Pharmacy on Berkhamsted High Street, said the profession was no stranger to financial hardship but there is widespread concern that these latest proposals could prove too much for some.

Jay, who has worked for Huberts for the past ten years and owned the business for five, said: “We had cuts last year but this is something totally different.

“It is basically survival of the fittest. I’m concerned that those pharmacies who cannot absorb the cuts may face closure. It will compromise all of our services.

“We need to work together rather than them imposing these cuts. We can show them how savings can be made at ground level. They should be engaging with the profession.

“It puts everybody’s future in doubt and there is a lot of uncertainty. We need more information but they have not quantified what these changes will mean.

Jay, who lives in Berkhamsted with her husband and children, said she and her team were determined to spread the word about the potential effects on hundreds of patients in the town.

She said: “The number of people who are not aware of what is happening is astounding. The message we want to get across is that this will affect all of our patients. I think there is a lack of awareness about it.”

In response to the government’s proposals, the National Pharmacy Association (NPA) set up a Support Your Local Pharmacy petition, which already has more than 100,000 signatures.

It aims to get Prime Minister David Cameron and Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt reconsidering the plans.

The three High Street pharmacies in Berkhamsted – Hubert Figg, Acorn and Dickmans – all have petitions for patients to sign in store. There is also a petition at Rooney Pharmacy in Tring.

Since setting up the petition less than two weeks ago, Huberts has had more than 400 signatures and the number is still growing.

Dheran Ladwa, pharmacist at fellow High Street chemist Dickmans, said of the cuts: “If it does lead to closures then it is going to have a bigger impact on the NHS and put more pressure on surgeries.”

Pharmacies like Hubert Figg provide a vital and personal service within the community, including a free delivery service to villages, as well as cultivating a close working relationship with the town’s doctors’ surgeries.