Letter: Community chemists

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The Independent Online
Sir: Your article on the distribution of community pharmacies (24 February) did not address the key issue: not so much a question of how many pharmacies dispense what number of prescriptions, but rather how many pharmacies in what locations are required to ensure reasonable access for all to a full pharmaceutical service?

Today's pharmaceutical services extend beyond the core role of dispensing prescriptions and bring to a community the pharmacist's skills as a health professional who is an expert on medicines and their safe and effective use, and who is, above all, accessible to the public. The value of this service is being recognised by a professional allowance for pharmacists, who have hitherto been remunerated only for the number of prescriptions dispensed.

Both the National Audit Office report and the Public Accounts Committee response to it recognise the importance of safeguarding access to pharmaceutical services. The Department of Health has acknowledged that any mechanism to reduce the number of pharmacies dispensing NHS prescriptions in the areas where the department thinks there are too many must not deprive other places of their only pharmacy.

This surely means safeguarding the existence of community pharmacies in the shopping, suburban and housing estate areas as well as close to doctors' practices, so that a visit to pharmacy remains a part of day-to-day life and people have a choice of pharmacy.

Yours faithfully,

JOHN FERGUSON

Secretary & Registrar

Royal Pharmaceutical Society of

Great Britain

London, SE1

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