The Government have announced that community pharmacies will face a 12% cut on current funding levels for the rest of this financial year, and a 7.4% cut on current levels the year after. Labour’s Opposition Day debate, on Wednesday 2 November, will highlight that community pharmacies are valued assets that offer face-to-face healthcare advice which relieves pressure on other NHS services.
Cross-party concern was shown in the House of Commons on the effect of the cuts, and the Minister responsible was forced to admit that he has no idea how many pharmacies can be expected to close because of these cuts.
The pharmacy sector expect the effect on pharmacies of these cuts to be devastating and the government Minister previously responsible for pharmacy funding estimated earlier this year that up to 3,000, a quarter of all pharmacies, could close because of these cuts.
Labour is calling on the Government to rethink its cuts to community pharmacy funding and is calling on Conservative MPs to vote against these cuts that will be hugely damaging to community pharmacies and the people that rely on them.
Research produced by the House of Commons Libraries has shown how many pharmacies are at risk in each region.
The Government has announced a Pharmacy Access Scheme (PhAS) to ease the burden of the cuts on areas where there are fewer pharmacies and higher health needs, but the scheme will benefit some regions significantly more than others.
In the South East 18% of pharmacies are eligible for the PhAS whereas just 8% in the North West are eligible.
Outside of London, the greatest number of pharmacies under threat are in the North West at up to 460.
Julie Cooper, MP for Burnley and Shadow Health Minister with responsibility for Community Health, said:
“Community pharmacy is for many the gateway to the NHS providing far more than prescriptions and paracetamols. Far from being a costly drain on NHS resources, community pharmacies satisfy an ever growing demand for service.
“When they close, and they will if the Government persists with its cuts, this demand will not just disappear. Some patients will pack out their GP surgery and others will head straight to A&E placing additional pressures on already over stretched services.
“Shockingly the Government has no idea how many pharmacies will close and even less understanding of the massive impact that this will have on the elderly, the disabled, the chronically ill and other vulnerable groups.”
Jonathan Ashworth, Labour’s Shadow Secretary of State for Health, said:
“The cuts to pharmacies will damage local communities that rely on them and pile extra pressure on already overstretched GP and A&E services.
“It’s disgraceful that the Government is pushing ahead with the cuts despite admitting they have no idea how many pharmacies could be forced to close as a result.
“The cuts are a damaging false-economy and the Government must think again before forcing them on local pharmacies. I am urging Conservative colleagues to do the right thing for their constituents and vote against the cuts this Wednesday. ”