Poots in war of ‘financial attrition’ against pharmacies

A local pharmacist has warned that patients will suffer if Health Minister, Edwin Poots, continues his “financial acts of attrition” on local chemists and hit out at the lack of consultation by the Health Board.

Minister Poots has said he is seeking the closure of 100 local phamacies in a bid to save £38 million from the health budget. In response Community Pharmacy Northern Ireland (CPNI), the collective body of local chemists, has mounted a judicial review.

The CPNI warned that the decision amounts to a 30% cut in funding and will result in the loss of 800 jobs in Northern Ireland’s chemists.

Killian Johnston of Sweeney’s Chemist at Strand Road, warned: “The minister didn’t identify which pharmacies he wants closed. They won’t be closed on a geographical basis or where there is an over provision of services. It seems he just plans to make things financially difficult and will see who is left standing at the end of the process. It is financial attrition.

“The public need to know exactly what is under threat here.”

The situation is such that Mr. Johnston already makes a loss on a number of prescriptions and his outreach programmes such as smoking cessation classes are under threat.

“Local pharmacies have already seen their workrate rise by 70% in the last six years, profits are falling and when you open the post in the morning you don’t know which cuts are being imposed next. Margins are such that I’m not sure how many of the 30 outreach clinics I run in the community I’ll be able to continue to offer.”

Sweeney’s Chemist has served the Derry community since 1895. It has been in the Johnston family for the last 46 years and currently employs six people. “Pharmacies across the North provide health services, advice and treatment, to 123,000 people, both the sick and healthy, every day,” said Mr. Johnston.

Acutely aware, “savings do need to be made,” Mr. Johnston explained how local pharmacists can help reduce costs by switching patients from leading brand names to generic medications. “We can help cut costs in the Minister’s budget just not in this manner but the Health Board won’t allow us to do this. They won’t even discuss it with us,” he claimed. “The Health Board have not consulted with us on any of the cuts already implemented, there has been no consultation process. This is not something that they are thinking about doing, this is something that they have already done. These cuts were put in place a few months ago. We aren’t exactly staring closure in the face,” he said “but something has to change.”