Pharmacies in Sheffield ‘at tipping point’ as third closure within a year is announced

Pharmacies in Sheffield are at a ‘tipping point’, it has been claimed, after a third closure in the space of a year.

LloydsPharmacy has just announced its branch within the Sainsbury’s store at Crystal Peaks will shut for good on Saturday, February 23.

The LloydsPharmacy within Sainsbury's at Crystal Peaks is due to close on February 23

The LloydsPharmacy within Sainsbury's at Crystal Peaks is due to close on February 23

Day Lewis Pharmacy in Crookesmoor, and Bradway Pharmacy have already ceased trading during the last 12 months.

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Community Pharmacy Sheffield (CPS), which represents all 129 pharmacy contractors within the city, has warned many more could be lost due to financial pressures and a lack of clarity over their future role.

If that is allowed to happen, it says, even more pressure could be put on GP surgeries and emergency wards, which it says are already ‘creaking’ under the strain.

Claire Thomas, chief officer of Community Pharmacy Sheffield

Claire Thomas, chief officer of Community Pharmacy Sheffield

CPS chief officer Claire Thomas said: “The financial situation is unsustainable, following the national funding cut, and we’re at a real tipping point.

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“Closures don’t give the full picture. Many pharmacies are having to find ways to reduce costs, for example by cutting staff and opening hours or charging for services they had provided for free like home deliveries.

“We’re seen as a safety net, and we’re often the first point of call for minor conditions and advice.

“If more pharmacies close or reduce their opening hours, it’s going to increase pressure on GPs and emergency and urgent care centres, which are already creaking under the strain.”

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The Government slashed annual funding for pharmacies by a total of £208m across 2016/17 and 2017/18, a cut of nearly 7.5 per cent, though the budget was maintained at £2.592 billion for this financial year.

Those funding cuts have been exacerbated by medicine shortages, leading to inflated prices for some drugs which are in short supply.

It’s not just pharmacies in Sheffield which have been feeling the pinch, with the CPS saying around 167 have closed across England due to the funding cuts.

Ms Thomas claims much better use could be made of pharmacists’ skills to help people manage their conditions, easing the burden on other NHS services.

Pharmacies in Sheffield are already planning to provide more services for patients with high blood pressure, including taking people’s blood pressure and reviewing their medication.

But Ms Thomas says that while the NHS Long Term Plan talks about making greater use of community pharmacies, more details are needed about exactly what their future role should be.

“There are great challenges facing the Government and the NHS and we recognise that no one within the NHS is going to receive more money for doing the same thing,” she said.

“We need to find a way for pharmacies to do more to benefit patients and the NHS but they need to be appropriately funded for delivery of patient care.

“If the Government has decided that it wants a reduction in the number of bricks and mortar pharmacies then a planned reduction programme would be better than using funding cuts to reduce pharmacy numbers.

“We need to ensure that those pharmacies that best meet patients needs and are supportive in delivering local services and helping to achieve local ambitions for improving outcomes for patients and improving the health and wellbeing of their local populations are protected.

LloydsPharmacy confirmed it was closing the branch within Sainsbury’s at Crystal Peaks, but pointed out that it had another branch in the West Mall of the shopping centre.

“We will be taking every opportunity to direct patients to other community pharmacies in the area and to support a smooth transition to facilitate an uninterrupted service,” it said in a statement.

“We will also be supporting colleagues at this difficult time and redeploying members of the team, where possible, to other LloydsPharmacy locations where vacancies exist.”

The Star has contacted the Department of Health and Social Care, which has yet to respond.