EMMA LEWELL-BUCK: Local pharmacies are vital to our communities

Pharmacies at risk
Pharmacies at risk

In the past few weeks I have been contacted by hundreds of constituents raising concerns of how the Government are planning to decimate thousands of community pharmacies.

Like them I believe that local pharmacies are vital to our communities, they provide a crucial network within the healthcare system and are highly valued by healthcare professionals and patients.

Last year the Tories proposed a £170 million cut to pharmacy funding, which experts say could lead to up to 3,000 facing closure. At a time when the Government is encouraging patients to consult with pharmacies in order to ease the strain on GPs and hospitals, this seems to be a backwards step and could result in even more pressure on local pharmacies which provide vital frontline services for the communities they serve.

Many people use their pharmacy for advice before seeing their GP and it has been estimated that these closures could mean an extra million people each month visiting their GP for medical advice, putting much unwanted pressure on an already strained NHS.

These cuts will fall particularly hard on local independent pharmacies, leading to closures, job losses and pay cuts not to mention the effect it may have on communities and the public who rely on our local pharmacies such as the elderly.

Elderly people who find it difficult to travel often rely on a good relationship or services such as home delivery of medication or health checks with their local pharmacies. However they may find that without that lifeline they may end up having to travel further to their GP or hospital for advice.

Recently the Health Minister, Alistair Burt MP confirmed those fears by admitting that independent pharmacies will be “squeezed”, however he has left many pharmacies facing an uncertain future as he was unable to confirm where the closures may take place.

He further added “It is not the aim of the Government to close pharmacies and we do not know exactly how the funding will fall, because we do not know yet the result of the negotiations and how this will be handled.”

If the Government have no idea how, when or which pharmacies will be affected then it really is concerning. This assault on local pharmacies and the Government’s lack of understanding of how it will affect communities is yet more evidence of how the NHS and the health care system is not safe in the hands of the Tories.

The Tories have presided over disaster after disaster. On top of the closure of thousands of local pharmacies we have had the junior doctors’ dispute, the shambles that is the NHS 111 helpline, increased privatisation and the proposed abolition of student nurse bursaries.

I and my colleagues in Parliament are committed to fighting for our local pharmacies because good, safe health care doesn’t just come from GPs, hospitals and carers in the community it also comes from your local pharmacy.