Read how being rejected to be included on the Pharmacy Access Scheme is affecting one pharmacy in Nottingham

Government cuts to English community pharmacy funding have, understandably, left many independent pharmacies fearing closure.

But some pharmacies are being thrown a lifeline in the form of the Pharmacy Access Scheme (PhAS), a fund dedicated to ensuring that pharmacies deemed critical to patient access are not forced to shut their doors.

Eligibility for the scheme includes criteria such as being located one mile or more away from another pharmacy, or being located between 0.8 and one mile away from another pharmacy in an area in the top 20% of deprivation in the country.

Pharmacies who did not make it onto NHS England’s initial list of qualifying pharmacies are eligible to apply for an appeal. However, information uncovered by The Pharmacist reveals that to date (31 March), no pharmacies that have requested to be included on the list have been successful.

Read on to find out how one pharmacy in the North West is coping after its appeal to be included in the PhAS was rejected.

Calow Pharmacy Chesterfield, Nottingham

Jaiprete Johal, the superintendent pharmacist at Calow Pharmacy in Chesterfield, tells The Pharmacist: 'In our view, the nearest community pharmacy is Brimington Pharmacy, which is more than a mile away. So when we found we weren’t on the PhAS list, we put the appeal in.

'The response was that we were rejected because the nearest community pharmacy to us is at Chesterfield Hospital, which is a hospital pharmacy.'

In response to this case, a spokesperson from NHS England noted that the criteria for the access scheme were 'very clearly laid out'.

Mr Johal continued by saying of the local hospital pharmacy: 'They basically do the occasional FP10 from community [pharmacy], but essentially their workload is taken up by the dispensing of medicine for hospital in-patients and discharges and that kind of thing.

'They don’t deliver [medication], they don’t offer supervised administration, they don’t do mediboxes, they pretty much don’t do any of the services that a community pharmacy would do.

'They also don’t come under the criteria of a community pharmacy when it comes to contract monitoring from NHS England.

'When my predecessor applied to have a contract for this pharmacy about 14 years ago, under the Pharmaceutical Needs Assessment (PNA), the contract was granted. So surely the hospital pharmacy wasn’t considered in the (PNA) when the contract for the pharmacy’s existence was considered.

'However, for the purposes of the PhAS, the hospital pharmacy is considered a community pharmacy within a mile of us, so therefore we’re not eligible for the funding.

'But we know that the patients that we service wouldn’t be able to have their needs fulfilled from the hospital pharmacy because they literally wouldn’t be able to cope because the hospital pharmacy is inundated with its own workload.

'We’re not at risk of closure, but services and staffing are at risk. We want to continue to provide free delivery to patients; we want to continue to provide free mediboxes to those vulnerable patients with compliance issues.

'We want to maintain our staff levels so that we continue to provide the right standards of service to our patients so that we can cope with the workload and also provide excellent customer service and excellent healthcare.

'At the moment looking at how this year is coming out so far, we’re certainly not in a position to invest in staff at the moment.

'And the workload is increasing, because of the added work we need to do to get the extra bit of funding that is on offer from the Quality Payment Scheme, and just because of the natural increase due to our growing business and prescription volume.

'If we can’t maintain staffing levels to keep on top of that, at the end of it all, there’s a patient who’s not going to get the healthcare services that they deserve.

'I don’t want to have to go down the line of charging for delivery or mediboxes and all these things that we offer our community for free and have no reimbursement for, but I don’t know, there may be a time when we have to review that.

'We could quite easily be on our hands and knees just getting the core work done.'