Sefton Central Labour MP Bill Esterson says a successful scheme at pharmacies in Sefton could become unsustainable as a result of budget cuts.
The scheme has run successfully in Sefton for of 15 years to alleviate pressures on GPs, Children and Adult Accident And Emergency Services. It is in danger of becoming unsustainable because of a 50% budget cut, according to Mr Esterson.
The Minor Ailments Scheme known locally as Care at the Chemist, enables local community pharmacies to supply children and adults with non life threatening conditions, and on demand treatment, free at the point of access, to those eligible for free prescriptions, including children and the elderly and includes many of the most vulnerable groups in society. The Care at the Chemist service ensures residents have easy access to expert health advice and treatments for minor ailments and injuries where they might otherwise need a trip to the doctors. The service reduces the demand on GPs as the ailments and injuries can be treated without the need for a doctor’s appointment.
In a communication circulated to Care at the Chemist providers last week, which was shared with the MP's office, drastic funding cuts were announced for April 1st. The Clinical Commissioning Group, which currently pays for the service, has proposed a 50% cut in fees. Dismissing the reduced funding as 'non viable', many pharmacies have cancelled the service.
Bill Esterson MP said, "Our NHS has been under consistent attack by the Conservative government, and the Conservative / Liberal Democrat Coalition before that. Add to this cuts to social care, which increase pressure on GP services, and we are left with a toxic combination. At a very difficult time for healthcare services, pharmacies are a lifeline. They give people local access to medical advice for minor ailments, while relieving pressure on GP surgeries. Losing this service could be a disaster for our community. It will end up costing more, because it is considerably more expensive to provide GP services for all those people who currently pop into their local pharmacy.
"I have contacted the CCG, asking them to get round the table with the providers as a matter of urgency. They must come to a sensible, viable agreement which keeps medical advice available on-demand at our pharmacies especially for those more vulnerable groups in greatest need.
“Care at the Chemist enables access to medical professionals, appointment-free, at local pharmacies in Sefton. With advice for treating minor ailments available on-demand, the service reduces pressure on GP services and out-of-hours NHS walk-in centres. It therefore makes no sense to cut the service.
“Community pharmacies have always worked with the NHS and the Clinical Commissioning Groups (Sefton) and the Local Medical Committee to provide this service, but have recently been informed of the changes in the terms. Pharmacies in Formby, Aintree, Maghull and Crosby have all told me that it is with great sadness that many community pharmacies will cease operating the scheme from the 1st of April. This will have a major impact on local residents and increase health inequalities and add to the pressure elsewhere in our NHS. This is bad news for patients, for the NHS and for the taxpayer as if people become more seriously ill, the cost of treatment is far higher and often adds to the pressure at A&E. And right now that is the last thing our NHS needs. That’s why the Conservative government should intervene to help and why the CCG should discuss this further with the pharmacies.”