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Response to Times story on pharmacies facing closure

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The Times today ran a story claiming that 'thousands of pharmacies face closure in £170m funding cut. Click 'read more' to see the DH and Chief Pharmaceutical Officer statements.

A Department of Health spokesperson said:

"We are investing record amounts in the NHS, but the whole health and care sector must make efficiencies to fulfil the NHS' own 5 year plan.

"We want to improve the way patients access their medicines, through click and collect as well as being able to see pharmacists in care homes, GP surgeries and A&E.

"There is no estimate of the number of the number of pharmacies operating in coming years, and with NHS England we are consulting on a scheme to give better support to isolated or rural pharmacies."

Dr Keith Ridge, Chief Pharmaceutical Officer said:

"Community pharmacy is a vital part of the health and care system, and that's why we are consulting on changes that will better integrate pharmacy into the NHS. We are looking at ways to make greater use of the skills of pharmacists in GP surgeries, A&E, care homes and other settings, and make better use of technology.
"We also have a responsibility to make sure we get the best use from our resources, and currently 40 percent of pharmacies are in clusters of three or more within ten minutes walk - each supported by NHS funds. These proposals will ensure we have a modern, efficient pharmacy sector which gives patients the support of pharmacy services when and where they need it."

Background information 

40% of pharmacies are currently in clusters of three or more pharmacies within ten minutes' walk of each other.

The number of pharmacies funded by the NHS has risen rapidly in recent years - from around 9,748 in 2003 to 11,674 (as at 31 March 2015) - an increase of almost 20%.

The average pharmacy receives in the region of £220k in NHS funding a year

We are consulting on the introduction of a Pharmacy Access Scheme, which will provide more NHS funds to certain pharmacies compared to others, to make sure everyone has access to a community pharmacy.

Here is a link to the open letter which we sent to the pharmacy sector in December, outlining the changes to pharmacy funding and our desire to make better use of pharmacists' skills by enabling them to work more closely with GPs, hospitals, care homes and other public health settings.

Pharmacists are a valuable NHS resource and that is why we are increasing opportunities for them to make sure we use pharmacists' skills to maximum effect across the health service.

On 13 October, NHS England announced an increase in the budget for a three year pilot to test the role of clinical pharmacists working in general practice, from £15 million to £31 million. This will part-fund 403 new clinical pharmacist posts across 73 sites, covering 698 practices in England, supporting over 7 million patients.

The Five Year Forward View, the NHS plan for the future, in which Government has invested £10billion, makes clear that more appropriate use of community pharmacy and other community services is part of helping patients get the right care, at the right time, in the right place. It talks about far greater use of pharmacists as part of new models of care. (p21 for example)

We are in detailed discussions with the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee on the 2016/17 funding settlement for community pharmacy in England. In parallel, we are also seeking views on our proposals from across the sector and from patient groups.

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