Is The Campus Pharmacy Facing Closure?

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VP Union Development Atree Ghosh and councilors from the University & Scotforth Rural Ward Eco-Socialist group are campaigning against the proposed closure of the campus pharmacy. A ‘User and Stakeholder Engagement Analysis Report’ – produced in March of this year by H2A Partnership Limited on behalf of NHS England and NHS Improvement North West – has been criticised by the two groups in response to its citation in a letter sent to local figures to provide feedback regarding the renewal of the Local Pharmaceutical Services (LPS) contract.

In a letter sent on the 24th November from a senior primary care manager at NHSEI, it is stated that “the current arrangements for the Lancaster University Pharmacy contract expire on 31 March 2021.  NHS England/Improvement (NHSEI) is currently assessing the need for a pharmacy on the University site.  An options paper will be going to the NW NHSEI Commissioning and Procurement Committee in December to determine if the contract should be re-procured or not.  NHSEI is writing to update you on the current position, and to seek feedback to include in the options paper.” 

The letter details two options, the first of which would be to 

  1. “Procure [a] new contract that will replace the existing service, with a revised service specification and amended opening hours, reflecting feedback that has been received.
  2. Allow the contract to expire and use other local pharmacies to provide the service.”

The letter provides a background section, which claims that a “Pharmaceutical Needs Assessment for Lancashire Health and Wellbeing Board (published in April 2018) does not require a pharmacy on this site/does not identify a need for a pharmacy on this site” [link added] and further cites the stakeholder report, stating that “the patient/stakeholder feedback from a user survey exercise, carried out in late February-early March 2020, reported that the pharmacy is not well used by the campus population and a large proportion of patients use other pharmacies in the surrounding area.” According to this report, the survey was conducted between the dates of February 27th to March 11th of this year, receiving 94 responses. Of the questions detailed, it notes that of this group, 41 people ‘never’ use the services at the Lancaster University Pharmacy, with the remainder split between ‘Whenever I receive a prescription’ (14 responses), ‘Occasionally’ (31 responses), ‘Regularly’ (5 responses) and ‘Often’ (2 responses).

However, question 11 of the survey notes that of the 94 responses, 41 identified as a student of Lancaster University, 17 identified as a Lancaster University employee, and 36 identified as ‘other’. This is the source of the criticism which has been levied towards this report in feedback from Councillor Jack O’Dwyer Henry. He notes that “In the appendix attached to the stakeholder feedback request letter, it is stated: 

“The patient/stakeholder feedback from a user survey exercise carried out in late February-early March 2020, reported that the pharmacy is not well used by the campus population and a large proportion of patients use other pharmacies in the surrounding area.”

I do not accept this conclusion. This conclusion is not stated in the report, nor does the data in the report support it. Upon reading the report, it becomes clear why it cannot be considered a valid evidence base for decision-making. The survey only received responses from 41 students (who do not necessarily live on campus). There are 6,443 student rooms on campus. Therefore, the 41 students surveyed represent at most 0.6% of the campus population (if one makes the very generous assumption that all 41 live on campus, which the majority of Lancaster students do not). This is simply not a representative sample of students, and there is no guarantee that any of those surveyed live on campus. It is therefore impossible to draw any conclusions about what the campus population thinks about the pharmacy from this report. I oppose in the strongest terms any attempt to close the Lancaster University pharmacy, especially on such a weak evidence base. I suggest that meaningful engagement with students, especially those who live on campus, takes place – as I am confident that proper research would quickly establish how the pharmacy is a well-used and valued asset to the campus community.”

Furthermore, in a statement published online urging concerned individuals to send feedback by the 2nd of December 2020, VP Atree Ghosh noted, in response to contact that “obviously, at the moment we are urging as many students as possible to write to the email we provided to keep the pharmacy open. If it progresses further and they decide not to keep it open for whatever reason, the consensus amongst us is to do whatever necessary to retain the service on campus.”

In response to a request for comments, Lancaster University stated that

 “Lancaster University supports the presence of a pharmacy on our campus which adds to the convenience, health, and well-being of our staff and students – particularly those with disabilities or chronic health conditions.  We will be making representations to the NHS Commissioning Group to this effect and are working with local partners to explore their views and potential options.  We are following this very closely over the coming weeks and months.”

NHS England and NHS Improvement North West have further been approached for comment via email at the time of writing. This is a developing story

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