Health

The NHS prescriptions have caused pharmacies to lose money.

As a carer for vulnerable patients, many with multiple health conditions, Julia Lovett could not properly meet their needs without the support of her local pharmacy.

For her, easy access to medical supplies, from bandages to needles, is vital, as her patients — all of whom have dementia — are often in “very distressing physical situations,” she says.

And more often than not, they urgently need medical supplies outside normal working hours – so the fact that Moin’s Chemist in Market Harborough, Leicestershire, where Julia lives and works, is open from 7.30am to 11pm, six days a week and until 6pm . on Sunday gives tremendous peace of mind.

“This isn’t a nine to five job, but luckily the pharmacy doesn’t just keep nine to five hours and the people who work there are just so nice and helpful. It really lifts the heart,” explains 70-year-old Julia.

As a carer for vulnerable patients, many with multiple health conditions, Julia Lovett could not properly meet their needs without the support of her local pharmacy. She is pictured above with founder Moinuddin Kolia. It is usually very busy, but it faces a bleak future

The sense of community nurtured by dispensary staff is also vital, says Julia, who lives in the city with her husband Monty, 73.

“Often on my way to work I get a call that customers need certain medical supplies. I can call Moin’s and ask them to prepare everything for me. I couldn’t call ahead to a major chain. They know me at my local pharmacy.’

In addition to dispensing medicines, the pharmacy, founded a decade ago by Moinuddin Kolia, 51, and a small group of fellow pharmacists, offers free hearing tests, a blood pressure clinic and free earwax removal. It is usually very busy, but it faces a bleak future.

Part of the problem is rising drug prices. ‘I recently had a prescription for a medicine for a four-year-old with asthma, which used to cost £5 but had risen to £58,’ says Kolia, who regularly works 50-hour work weeks.

“I had to hand it out because my conscience wouldn’t let me do anything else. But the government is only reimbursing us £53 because that’s the price it decided on. If this continues, pharmacies like mine will have liquidity problems and could even go bankrupt.’

Julia fears what would happen if Moin closed: “This pharmacy is completely irreplaceable,” she says.

But many communities are losing this vital lifeline as increasingly independent, largely family-run, pharmacies succumb to financial pressure.

The Mail has now launched a campaign to save them before it’s too late. We urge readers to write to their MP (see sample letter, right) to protect these important small businesses.

Independent Community Pharmacists Report That For Every Nhs Prescription They Dispense They Lose Around £73 Pence Because, While The Nhs Contract Pays £1.27 Per Prescription, Dispensing It Can Cost Around £2, Including Overheads Such As Staff Costs And Specialist Computer Systems

Independent community pharmacists report that for every NHS prescription they dispense they lose around £73 pence because, while the NHS contract pays £1.27 per prescription, dispensing it can cost around £2, including overheads such as staff costs and specialist computer systems

One of those fearing for his future is Graham Phillips, 63. In the past two years, he has had to close seven of the 10 community pharmacies he’s slowly built from scratch over four decades – the other three are ‘bleeding’ money and will pack to follow soon.

He blames this entirely on severe government underfunding and a five-year freeze on NHS payments. “We basically live off the air,” Phillips tells Good Health.

Some fear that many of England’s 6,600 independent community pharmacies are facing extinction, leaving those who depend on them with much-needed prescriptions, advice and practical health support.

It is estimated that a third are no longer viable and thousands could close in England by 2024. The finger of blame is pointed at a five-year freeze on NHS payments.

The 2015 financial settlement between the government and community pharmacists’ representative body, the Negotiating Committee for Pharmaceutical Services, froze their pay until 2024 – even though inflation has since risen sharply and costs have far exceeded what pharmacy revenues cover. Just providing prescription drugs can be crippling.

Independent community pharmacists report that for every NHS prescription they dispense they lose around £73 pence because although the NHS contract pays £1.27 per prescription, dispensing it can cost around £2, including overheads such as staff costs and specialist computer systems .

Some Fear That Many Of England'S 6,600 Independent Community Pharmacies Are Facing Extinction, Leaving Those Who Depend On Them With Much-Needed Prescriptions, Advice And Practical Health Support.

Some fear that many of England’s 6,600 independent community pharmacies are facing extinction, leaving those who depend on them with much-needed prescriptions, advice and practical health support.

As a result, independent pharmacies in England are collapsing, leaving communities worse off.

One such community is located in Ramsgate, Kent. In 2016, Graham Phillips was approached by a group of GPs in the town struggling to support the local population and asked him to set up a new community pharmacy.

“Ramsgate is a very deprived area with a desperate shortage of public health services,” he says. ‘We set up a pharmacy with all the added value we could bring, with advice and support services such as smoking cessation and emergency contraception.’

He kept the Ramsgate Summerhill Pharmacy going for three years, but the NHS settlement never made it viable. ‘This while it was the only pharmacy in the area, had 15,000 customers and was open 100 hours a week,’ he says. “We just couldn’t bear the losses. We had to close in February 2020 before the rest of the group dropped out.’

Phillips’ entire company almost went bankrupt – he says he was on the verge of a nervous breakdown.

“I had to close one other pharmacy and sell five others [in Radlett, Wheathampstead, Harpenden, Southdown and Elstree] just to pay off most of our debt and have a little bit of cash flow to keep things going,” he says.

“My three remaining pharmacies, one in Letchworth and two in Kent, are among the busiest in the country, based on national data on pharmacy activity. But we still can’t make ends meet. All three branches lose money and we live on fresh air.

‘My prospects? It’s about getting out of this business.”

Like many, he sees few other options. ‘Ninety per cent of your cases are on the NHS. It essentially has a monopoly on you. If they effectively impose a pay cut, what can you do?’

1669675287 809 Pharmacies Are Losing Money On Drugs Issued On Nhs Prescriptions

Use This Letter As A Template To Write To Your Mp To Help Save Our Local Pharmacies

Use this letter as a template to write to your MP to help save our local pharmacies

Community pharmacies do so much more than write prescriptions, he adds. For example, at one of his stores, staff realized that a sickly-looking baby had a deadly bacterial infection. They acted quickly to rush the child to hospital for life-saving emergency treatment.

He says that with people finding it increasingly difficult to see a GP, the government should encourage pharmacies to push this system by offering a ‘pharmacy first’ service, as is already the case in Scotland and Wales, where qualified pharmacists can prescribe medicines. to treat minor health problems such as cystitis and stomach problems.

Even large chain pharmacies are struggling. Since 2019, Boots has closed 200 branches that it says were loss-making.

“If the biggest retail chains, with their ability to buy drugs at deep discounts, are struggling to make it work, how are the little guys like me ever going to survive?” asks Philips.

Andrew Lane, president of the National Pharmacy Association, which represents independent community pharmacies, has welcomed the Mail’s campaign, saying politicians and the NHS must ‘act now, before it’s too late’.

A spokesman for the Ministry of Health and Social Care said: ‘Municipal pharmacies play a vital role in supporting patients, helping to relieve pressure on GPs and freeing up time for appointments. We commit nearly £2.6 billion annually to support their essential work and improve integration into the NHS.”

Additional reporting: Angela Epstein

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Merry

Merry C. Vega is a highly respected and accomplished news author. She began her career as a journalist, covering local news for a small-town newspaper. She quickly gained a reputation for her thorough reporting and ability to uncover the truth.

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