Read how being rejected from the Pharmacy Access Scheme is affecting one pharmacy in the North West of England
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 since being excluded from the original PhAS list.
Moorclose Pharmacy, Cumbria
The pharmacy, which has a five-star rating on NHS Choices, is at risk of closure, according to its managers.
Saeed Anani Sarab is one of the directors of Moorclose Pharmacy. He told The Pharmacist: ‘Unfortunately, we have not been placed automatically on the PhAS list due to us being located less than one mile from the closest pharmacy.
‘We are, however, in the eligibility criteria set by NHS England to appeal the decision because we fall between 0.8 and one mile to the closest pharmacy and top 20% most deprived [areas of England].’
A spokesperson from NHS England said: ‘When details about the scheme were first published by the Department of Health in October last year, the criteria for pharmacies to receive funding were very clearly laid out and there is a review process to allow for consideration of extenuating circumstances to ensure patient access is protected in the way intended. The document is quite clear that NHS England’s role is to administer the review process in line with the published criteria.’
Mr Sarab said the pharmacy is taking legal advice on the issue, but is not hopeful for a positive outcome. ‘We are not too optimistic, as it’s been reported that out of all the appeals submitted so far, none have been accepted,’ he said.
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Mr Sarab continued: ‘Unfortunately, the Government has decided to severely reduce all community pharmacies’ budgets without any alternative planning and this will affect all pharmacies.
‘We have no intention to close the pharmacy. However, we do not know the real impact of the cuts until the months [to follow], so will have to review the situation at a later date.
‘All we can do for the moment is to try our best and humbly request all patients living around the area to support our pharmacy by using our services in order for us to get through this difficult period.
‘We will continue with all our essential services like the free repeat management service and delivery and also all the extra services we have been commissioned to do until we can assess the full effect of the cuts and will keep all our customers informed at all stages.’
Moorclose Pharmacy is located to the south of Workington. ‘All the surgeries and pharmacies are clustered around the city centre,’ Sarab says. ‘[South Workington] is a very large area and it doesn’t have any healthcare provider there so our pharmacy has definitely been very useful.
‘It’s a community that’s always in the top 20% rate for the whole country in terms of deprivation. You’ve got a large elderly population there as well.
‘Only 25% of residents own a car, and because of the fact that pharmacies are all clustered towards the centre of the city, there is a large population in the south that either has to catch a bus or drive a car to access those services. If they don’t have a car then they are dependent on public transport, which has its own issues.
‘If we were not here, our patients would have to travel quite a distance to the town centre to another pharmacy.
We don’t want people to feel that there is a danger for them of losing the services. We want to make sure that it stays open. What we want people to understand is that now it’s more about supporting your local pharmacies and making sure that they have something to stay open for. We wouldn’t do that to them and leave them without some sort of provision.
‘We want to try and do as many Quality Payment Scheme services as possible to try to get through this period. We have to or else we’d be in trouble.’