Cuts to community pharmacy funding could harm patient safety, the president of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) has warned.

In an exclusive interview with The Pharmacist last month, RPS president Sandra Gidley said that the five-year community pharmacy funding settlement announced in July was 'disappointing' because 'in effect it is year-on-year cuts'.

Speaking in a personal capacity, Ms Gidley added that the move was ‘short-sighted’.

She said: ‘We all know that when people are pressurised and not feeling valued, they don’t work at their best and mistakes are more likely to happen.

'By cutting money to community pharmacy, there is a potential knock-on effect with regard to patient safety. I am concerned that many pharmacies have cut staff and that puts a lot of pressure on the system.

The Department of Health and Social Care said: 'Community pharmacies provide vital healthcare services, and the new deal commits almost £13 billion over five years – £2.592 billion per year.

'To continue protecting the safety of patients, we are asking pharmacies to work differently and become more integrated with the NHS – we have reprioritised funding within the Community Pharmacy Contractual Framework to help them do this.

'We are also decommissioning a service that has not demonstrated value for money and are commissioning new ones that will.'


‘We can’t cut any more’


Ms Gidley, who said she ‘quite often’ works ten-hour locum shifts in community pharmacies, said ‘it can feel very pressurised’ and leaves her ‘absolutely knackered’.

She said: ‘We can’t cut any more [money], people are working flat out.'

She added that many community pharmacists are ‘working and struggling’, while contractors are ‘particularly feeling the pinch due to the current contract and economic climate.’

In April, the Pharmacists’ Defence Association (PDA) reported increasing alarm over staffing levels over the last three years, with 70% of community pharmacists saying that under-staffing is posing a risk to patient safety.

Meanwhile, a medicines safety report by the National Pharmacy Association (NPA) revealed that work and environment factors – ‘mainly’ time pressures – accounted for a third of patient safety incidents in the first quarter of 2019.