PROPOSALS to privatise hospital pharmacies would make a huge difference to patients, say NHS trust bosses.
As reported in last week’s Gazette, health campaigners handed in an 8,000-signature petition against the sell-off of pharmacies at hospitals in Kendal, Barrow and Lancaster.
But the trust has defended its proposals and says it is still ‘in the very early stages’ of the procurement process, with ‘no live tender’ as yet.
David Wilkinson, director of workforce at University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Trust (UHMBT) said: “Our proposals would make a huge difference to our patients by freeing pharmacists and pharmacy staff to concentrate on their core in-patient work.”
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UHMBT has said what was described by campaigners as a ‘tender’ was in fact a contract notice that had been put out to establish potential interest in running the pharmacies. Any companies that come forward would have their financial viability checked before the trust goes out to tender.
“There are no bids as there is no live tender,” said trust spokesman Camilla Sutcliffe. “Public procurement at this scale can take up to a year.”
Campaign group No Health Sell-Off at Morecambe Bay held a public meeting at Lancaster Town Hall to rally opposition to the proposals. Campaigner Cat Smith said ‘well over 100’ people attended and there was ‘disappointment’ that the hospitals trust did not send a representative to answer questions.
She said fears were voiced at the meeting that further hospital services may be sold off in future: “The expression that was used most often was, this is thin end of the wedge.”
Phil Woodford, the trust’s deputy director of corporate affairs, said: “We were very pleased to receive a petition from the campaign group earlier on the day of their meeting, when our interim chairman John Hutton spent time answering members’ concerns. In addition, we spoke with the campaigners after they observed a recent trust board meeting in Barrow.
“We have invited the campaign group to meet with our clinicians who lead our pharmacy services to better understand how any possible changes could improve services for our patients. To date we have not received a reply. However, this offer remains open.
“We did not attend the meeting on Wednesday evening as we understood its agenda covered a much wider range of NHS issues and we had previously recommended to the group that it may be useful to invite representatives from the Clinical Commissioning Groups who are responsible for funding the vast majority of local NHS services.”
Yesterday community campaigners from across Morecambe Bay were due to hold a lobby outside the Royal Lancaster Infirmary to call on the trust to halt the sell-off of pharmacy services and hold an inquiry and public consultation over the sale.