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Pharmacy patients could 'lose out'

21-Sep-2007: Patients will "lose out" under plans to withdraw out of hours chemist rotas from South Oxhey, Carpenders Park, Abbots Langley and Kings Langley, pharmacists have warned.

West Hertfordshire Primary Care Trust (PCT) proposes to stop subsidising pharmacies in these areas to open on Sundays and in the evenings, due to the number of non-subsidised alternatives.

In April 2005, a new national contract for pharmacists was agreed, which required them to extend opening hours to at least 40 hours per week, up from 30 hours.

Some pharmacies continue to be paid between £50 and £100 for taking part in out of hours rotas. But a PCT review found the increase in opening times has extended the availability of emergency medication beyond the need for rotas.

Only three still exist in Hertfordshire and it is recommended two of them - a Sunday rota in South Oxhey/Carpenders Park and an evening rota in Abbots Langley/Kings Langley - are withdrawn. The other is in Baldock.

Mr SR Patel, from Abbey Pharmacy in High Street, Abbots Langley, said: "Patients will lose out. The majority are older people. They're not going to travel distances to get medication.

"The rota is beneficial for everyone. They know one of us will always be open."

Vijay Mistry, the proprietor of Esom Pharmacy, in Bridlington Road, South Oxhey, often delivers prescriptions to customers at home.

He said: "It will have a detrimental effect to the cost of the local community, especially elderly and people who have not got private transport."

Raj Pandya, director of DB Jones Pharmacy, in The Parade, Carpenders Park, said personal service offered by chemists cannot be rivalled by supermarkets.

He said: "At supermarkets, you're not going to get personal service. They're not going to know your full medical history.

"And there's usually a different pharmacist every Sunday.

"You don't get any consistency."

Pharmacy rotas across Hertfordshire began to end three years ago, as supermarkets and late-night chemists became more prominent.

Heather Gray, head of Pharmacy and Medicines Management, said: "We're not withdrawing the rotas ourselves, we're just not paying the subsidies.

"We're not saying they must shut, we're just not going to pay them to stay open.

"Rotas are quite dated. More chemists are open longer and access to pharmacies has increased.

"If one is already open, why should we pay for those on the rota to stay open? If we get a lot of feedback that there is a definite need we will be reviewing it."

If agreed, the rotas will be withdrawn on Thursday, November 1, and comments must be sent by Friday, October 12, to Heather Gray, Head of Pharmacy and Medicines Management, West Hertfordshire PCT, Charter House, Parkway, Welwyn Garden City, Hertfordshire AL8 6JL. Alternatively, email heather.gray@herts-pcts.nhs.uk.

Source: Watford Observer

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