Campaigners are opposing plans to put hospital pharmacies in South Cumbria into private ownership.
Morecambe Bay NHS Trust is in special measures and says allowing a private company to run the service will improve patient care. But the decision has met with fierce opposition.
Margaret James-Barber has been a regular patient at the Westmorland General Hospital since breaking her back. She's collected 10,000 signatures on a petition calling for 'No Health Sell Off'.
I am really concerned that we are going down an American model. I would be in a wheelchair if I was living in America so I care passionately that it is publicly-funded, publicly-owned and free at the point of delivery. It looks like we're breaking that up.
Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust says it's proposing this for two reasons: firstly, it struggles to recruit pharmacists in this area, and secondly, it has to pay VAT on all prescriptions whereas a private company wouldn't have to pay that 20%.
It is considering two options:
- 1: Outsourcing hospital pharmacies and the hospital's drug supply to a private company, like the big names you see on the high street. The Trust is considering tenders from Boots and Lloyds, two big companies, who would provide outpatient pharmacy services, leaving the current staff to work on hospital wards.
- 2: Set up its own company, a bit like a social enterprise, and gift aid its profits back to the NHS. This option was proposed by the governors, who are elected from the Trust's 11,000 members to hold the directors to account. The Trust says this would cost £1.25million to set up and it wouldn't get over that staffing issue, but the governors are all in favour of it.
Boots and Lloyds are both part of American conglomerates. It is going to give them rent-free space.
The Trust declined an interview today but said in a statement:
The Trust Board will be considering options relating to the outsourcing of non-inpatient dispensing and stock management of pharmacy services on Wednesday 30th September 2015. The two options include: outsourcing to a third party community pharmacy and outsourcing to a wholly owned subsidiary pharmacy. These options were first considered by our Executives in May 2014 and since then we’ve explored both options. The wholly owned subsidiary model was an option we were asked to revisit by the Governors in April 2015, after having first discussed it with them in July 2014.
The Board of Directors will have to take that strength of feeling into account, when making their decision tomorrow.
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