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Southport Reporter

Edition No. 88

Date:- 28 February 2003

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Save UK Pharmacies! 
Letters to the Editor.
David Walker and member of staff
 
I would be most grateful if you would consider publishing this letter. It highlights an issue of very great importance to the people of Formby. I should be happy to discuss it with you further should you wish clarification or to follow up with an article.

The Office of Fair Trading (OFT) has recently published a report recommending that all regulations governing the opening of pharmacies (chemists) should be removed. The government is now deciding whether to accept this recommendation. Currently, pharmacies may only be opened where there is judged (by an expert panel of the Health Authority) to be a real need. The abolition of these regulations would make it possible to open a pharmacy absolutely anywhere. This would certainly result in the opening of pharmacies around surgeries and in supermarkets (such as Tesco and Safeway) and would threaten the viability of smaller pharmacies in residential areas, such as my own pharmacy.

The victims would be residents of such areas 
 
– particularly the elderly, the housebound, and mums with young children 
 
– who will lose a vital community service. To have to get in a car (if you have access to one) for every prescription to be dispensed, to have to go to a supermarket every time you want to treat yourself for a minor ailment or you want advice – that will be the effect. 
 
Will such pharmacies offer the personal service that is vital to maintain dignity and independence? 
 
Will they know your name and your circumstances – so important to help pick up some problems (such as a side-effect from a medicine you are taking)? 
 
Will they deliver to your house if you can’t get out?
 
Will they stock oxygen or other things needed in an emergency?
 
Will profit be their primary concern, rather than providing a friendly, personal service to the people they serve?
 
Will they be staffed by a procession of different pharmacists who you will never get to know? 
 
I pride myself on really getting to know the people I have had the privilege of serving in the 12 years since I took over this pharmacy, many of whom enjoyed a similar personal service from Mrs Thorpe for almost 20 years. If you want to safeguard the future of this service, you must act now. Write to your MP stating your objection to the OFT proposals, and come into the pharmacy to sign our petition. 
 
David Walker B.Sc., DipCommPharm, M.Sc., M.R.Pharm.S.    Pharmacist, Walker’s Pharmacy, 62 Harington Road.
 
Customers Comments 
By Patrick Trollope

AS we were in the chemist, all the customers who came in were shocked at the suggestion that Pharmaceutical services could be springing up all over with out strict regulations in place at present.   One customer said "It is not a question of freedom of commercial practices, but one of personal service that is at stake.  The government has tried this approach with so many other things and it only results in alot of problems and small groups going to the wall.   It is also a question of confidentiality between a qualified pharmacist, who knows his or her customers and the customers who know the chemist, that's at stake. You could never get the same degree of service in a Supermarket.  It is a bad move to introduce any act that allows any one to open up as a chemist, as it will loose trust in a well established and very well run service."  Another customer added "That's not counting the loss of businesses that are vital to the elderly and disabled, who might not be able to get to large stores, who will, with out a doubt put small family run stalls out of business.  Not to mention the loss of jobs and community spirit ."

If you want to sign the Petition that is being circulated around Pharmacists through out Sefton and beyond, you can call into in the Walkers Pharmacy on Harrington Road or any other Pharmacy in Formby.

Letter sent by David Walker to MP. Clair Thomas.

OFT Report on the Control of Entry Regulations 2003 (Pharmacies)

We are deeply concerned by some of the proposals within this document.

Our main ‘worry’ is the potential detrimental impact on the most vulnerable in our society. Deregulation cannot guarantee easy access to Pharmacies and by its nature is likely to result in a much more commercially driven distribution of Pharmacies – e.g. clusters around GP surgeries or within large supermarkets etc.

Since 1969, our Pharmacy has served a local community where most of our patients are elderly, infirm, small children, disabled or dying. The majority of these patients live within walking distance of the Pharmacy and benefit from a personal identity and service within the Pharmacy community. Our [patients are generally pleased to be able to make the journey to the Pharmacy by themselves and pleased to be able to speak with a pharmacist who knows them, their medical history and their personal situation - Providing independence, dignity, conversation and confidence to many patients who are housebound and dependant upon others for transport.

The demise of local communities is highlighted in the ‘Ghost Town Britain’ report. It is timely to remember the massive power of the Supermarkets – local specialist shops are disappearing all over the country. For our community, implementation of the OFT recommendations would result in:

Whilst some more ‘remote’ pharmacies see a delivery as overcoming the difficulties patients have in accessing them, a delivery service by driver can never substitute for the personal contact with a pharmacist in a pharmacy at the heart of their community.

There is a fundamental incompatibility between a very de-regulated market and the Government’s commitment to deliver a well-planned NHS pharmacy network. If the OFT recommendation is accepted, the distribution of Pharmacies will be governed SOLEY by considerations of maximum profitability, rather than the delivering of rational pharmaceutical services to patients.

If the OFT’s recommendation is accepted, there is a very real risk to the existing Pharmaceutical service in Formby (see attached map showing the distribution of Pharmacies and GP surgeries in Formby).
Tesco in Altcar will almost certainly open a Pharmacy. They have applied twice already under the existing regulations and been turned down on the basis that such a pharmacy is not ‘necessary or desirable’.
The opening of this Pharmacy is likely to make our Pharmacy unviable due to

The reduction in prescription volume and medicine sales, existing recent pressures from the relocation of a surgery from Duke Street to Chapel Lane (next door to a Pharmacy), which resulted in a 15% reduction in dispensing value.  The impact of Safeway and Tesco on ‘shop sales’ since their opening.

If this Pharmacy were to close, there would be no Pharmacy to the West of the railway, and all other pharmacies would be next to surgeries or in a supermarket. This would affect greatly upon access for those who are less mobile and more vulnerable. As well as restricting their choice of dispensing service, it would make it more difficult for them to buy medicines, and to seek the advice, which so often avoids the need for a GP visit.

Pharmaceutical services are expanding. Pharmacists are embracing a wider role. Certainly, our pharmacy contributes to lessening the GPs workload and provides patient focused care within the local community. Care in the community is the way forward and we are in the heart of that community.

Our purpose is not just to provide a dispensing service but personal care to our patients. It is when we are at our most vulnerable that we need a personal identity and someone who knows us well eases the pain of helplessness. Independence is something the young and healthy take for granted but it becomes very precious when it starts to slip away from us.

We believe that the current legislation guards the availability and access to local pharmaceutical services in a manageable manner. The proposed deregulation can only serve to rob the vulnerable in society of the individual service they currently enjoy.

Southport Reporter is Trade Mark of Patrick Trollope.   Copyright © Patrick Trollope 2003.