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Pharmacy inquiry: 3Cs facing the sector revealed

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Healthwatch England has identified some of the biggest challenges pharmacies in the UK are currently dealing with

There are some really severe challenges facing the pharmacy sector that need to be emphasised, William Pett, Head of Policy, Public Affairs and Research, Healthwatch England, told MPs at the second public evidence session of pharmacy inquiry this week (January 16)

Particularly, he informed the Health and Social Care Committee about the three Cs that Healthwatch England has identified – Confidence, Culture and Cost of living – which could also become barriers to the delivery of Pharmacy First service.

“Confidence in pharmacy services is being eroded, primarily by medicine shortages, staffing issues and closures,” he said.

Expanding on the second C, which is culture, Pett acknowledged that many patients are still used to seeing their GP as their first port of call for many health conditions.

“Pharmacy First is welcome, but there are going to be some restrictions on how quickly some patients will want to take up some of those services, rather than seeing their GP,” he told the pharmacy inquiry.

According to patient group Healthwatch England, the third the biggest challenge facing the sector is cost of living.

Pett explained: “Cost of living is a huge barrier to many members of the public taking up pharmacy services. Unless action is taken on that, we will continue to see people avoiding pharmacy for that reason.”

Health and Social Care Committee Chair Steve Brine MP asked Pett to reflect a bit more on the ‘cost of living’ point as a lot of services in a community pharmacy are free.

Responding to that, Pett said that while 90 per cent of medications are dispensed for free, many low-income individuals have “real problems” affording medication, especially those who are not on state benefits and are not exempt from prescription charges.

He cited their research on cost of living conducted last year, which revealed that “one in 10 people had avoided taking up one or more prescriptions because of prohibitive cost, being unable to afford the prescription charges.”

Because of the cost, one in 10 had avoided buying over-the-counter medicine, the study found.

Pett also shared the story of a patient, who is living with constant stomach pain as he could not afford the prescribed medication for chronic acid reflux. Despite working full time, the father of three does not have enough money for basic necessities.

To solve these issues, he urged the legislators to look at the exemption categories, and emphasised the need to do more to raise awareness about mechanisms that help people to afford medication.

He highlighted that there is really low awareness of the prescription pre-payment certificates that help low-income individuals to afford multiple prescriptions over a period of time.

In addition, he requested the committee to consider reintroducing an NHS minor ailments scheme that allows pharmacists to prescribe OTC medication for free to those who are exempt from prescription charges.

 

 

 

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