A Twitter friend re-tweeted a request for information about local pharmacies open on a Sunday evening. Easy I thought, I’ll pop on t’interweb and get the out of hours pharmacy rota off one of the 5 million websites the NHS runs.
Erm no. NHS Direct has nothing but a list of pharmacies with normal opening hours and the two local NHS websites that had an out-of-hours pharmacy rota only had rotas up to Easter this year. With all these admin staff the English NHS employs, you’d think one of them would be able to keep an out-of-hours pharmacy list up-to-date.
But while I was going through the list of pharmacies on the Shropshire NHS website the real reason why there are no pharmacies open on a Sunday evening dawned on me and for once it’s not about NHS funding. It’s Alistair Darling’s fault. “How is the Chancellor of the Exchequer to blame for pharmacies not opening on a Sunday evening?” I hear you cry. Well, it’s quite simple …
A couple of years back Alistair Darling was the Minister for Trade & Industry (an English department of course, he is an MP for a Scottish constituency after all) and was approached by the major supermarkets asking for a repeal of Sunday trading laws in England. He declined despite there being no Sunday trading laws in Scotland where he was elected. So what has that got to do with pharmacies? Take a look at a list of pharmacies in your local area and see how many different names there are on the list. I doubt there will be more than 9 or 10 in a medium sized town. Boots, Lloyds, Superdrug, Tesco, Asda … all big chains and all banned from opening for more than 6 hours on a Sunday. Because they have the buying power they are pricing independent pharmacies out of business and because they are cash rich they can buy up the independent pharmacies they are putting out of business.
If NHS services are going to be farmed off to the private sector then Sunday trading laws need to be repealed because people need access to medical services 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.