DH to Hunt: Don't underestimate resistance to pharmacy cuts

Jeremy Hunt was told to expect 'save our local pharmacy' campaigns
Jeremy Hunt was told to expect 'save our local pharmacy' campaigns
A Department of Health (DH) official warned Jeremy Hunt in 2015 that he “should not underestimate” the strength of resistance to the pharmacy funding cuts, C+D can reveal.

According to a memo by the deputy director of procurement and efficiency at the DH, Mr Hunt was warned to expect heavy campaigning against "what are real, cash cuts" that would "reduce the profits and value of many businesses".

The partly-redacted document – dated September 4, 2015 and revealed during the High Court hearing last week – reveals that Mr Hunt was warned that the DH "cannot guarantee there won’t be ‘save our local pharmacy' campaigns", as a result of the funding cuts.

"But we must remember that there are an estimated 25% too many pharmacies, so some level of closures would not necessarily be a bad thing," the DH deputy procurement director said.

"Careful political handling"

They also stressed that reforms would likely be received "very negatively" by the sector, "given the level of funding reduction".

The memo also referenced the DH's relationship with the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC).

"Normally negotiations with the PSNC are concluded with an agreement, but it is likely we would need to impose this funding cut," said the DH official, who branded this imposition "unprecedented".

Due to the expected "media and public backlash", Mr Hunt was told that "careful political handling is essential".

"Compelling narrative"

According to the memo, Mr Hunt asked for a "compelling narrative to justify funding reductions".

The official said the government's "core narrative" about the cuts should refer to the "rapid" increase in the number of pharmacies in "recent years", which has resulted in "many high streets in the UK having clusters of small pharmacies".

"At the same time, the sector is modernising. Advances in technology – including automated and off-site dispensing – are leading to lower costs for providers," the memo reads. "The NHS funding framework has not been updated to take account of these developments."

The way the DH and NHS England "frames the proposals" will be "critical to the outcome", the official concluded.

C+D reported live from the High Court legal challenge to the pharmacy cuts. Remind yourself how the sector got to this point and catch up with all the coverage here.

Highlights from the anti-cuts campaign

In January 2016, C+D published a letter for readers to give to their MP to raise awareness of the planned funding drop, announced the previous month. Later in January, Labour MP Paula Sherriff read out a question on the cuts – drafted by C+D – in parliament.

In May, politicians, pharmacists and patients met in Westminster to deliver a petition signed by a record-breaking 1.8 million people against the cuts. The total number of signatures would pass the 2m mark by the end of June.

In October, C+D joined the National Pharmacy Association on the anti-cuts campaign trail in Burford, Oxfordshire. 

Last month, Labour MP for Burnley Julie Cooper told C+D of the "massive response" from MPs to news of the cuts. Listen to the exclusive podcast interview below:

11 Comments
Question: 
What do you make of the DH's remarks?

Shenu Barclay, Locum pharmacist

I THINK COMMUNITY PHARMACIES AND GP SURGERIES ARE BOTH AT BREAKING POINT.WHILST DOING MY LOCUM SHIFTS I AM NOW COMING ACROSS MEDICAL PRACTICES WHERE GPS HAVE LEFT,APPOINTMENTS ARE NOT AVAILABLE FOR 7 DAYS AND REPEAT SCRIPTS ARE TAKING LONGER TO GENERATE DUE TO SHORTAGE OF GPS.

SHENU BARCLAY,LOCUM PHARMACIST,OXFORDSHIRE,GLOUCESTERSHIRE,WARWICKSHIRE

ajaz akhtar, Student

We are very fortunate here in the uk. Youth unemployment in averaging over 40% in Spain Portugal Italy and Greece. We contractors don't really have it that bad . 

Benjamin Leon D'Montigny, Non Pharmacist Branch Manager

News just in: Grass grows, water is wet, and people don't like it when you put their healthcare at risk.

ajaz akhtar, Student

meowwwwwww..... contractors are going to show resistance. What will that achieve? I dare any contractor to close their shops. Won't happen as it's each to their own. And liebour party who bankrupted the country, flooded it with cheap EU labour now jumping on the bandwagon to get greenie points. 

Reminds me of remoiners. Get over it guys . We are leavi g the EU and the cuts are here to stay. 

If you don't like the funding, call christies....This constant moaning about the fees is getting boring. Where was the resistance when locums had their fees cut? 

O J, Community pharmacist

Innit my mussy fudge!

Simon MEDLEY, Community pharmacist

so you deicide to cut first, then look for an excuse..great plan- who needs evidence or facts.... . Probably why theyve started refering to Establishment payments  as  '' subsidies '' rather than fees. Subsidies are given but fee's are earnt, so best try and hide the fact that they were a negotiated part of the contract 

 

ajaz akhtar, Student

Simon , get over it. There are suppliers who are happy with the funding and indeed someone bought a chain of 7 pharmacies so please stop this nagging. 

O J, Community pharmacist

Innit my mussy fudge!

A Hussain, Senior Management

Only one side provided a compelling narrative and it wasn't Mr Hunts.

Andy Burrells, Pre-reg Pharmacist

Like watching my tumble dryer

Spin

Spin

Spin

Hot air

More spin

Colin Pickles, Community pharmacist

Tumble Dryer ? It feels more like we've all been hung out to dry!

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