Late last year the Government proposed a £170 million cut to community pharmacies, since that time Labour have been highlighting how dangerous these cuts are.
The Government have consistently been unable to say what the impact of this cut will be and how many pharmacies will close as a result. Just recently they have said they are looking to press ahead with these devastating cuts after talks with the sector broke down due to the Government’s unwillingness to debate and explore other options with the sector.
The Government’s public consultation on their plans saw 2.2 million people sign a petition against the planned initial budget cut of 6%. However, it has now been reported that the latest proposal would cut funding for the sector from December 2016 to March 2017 by 12% on current levels. It is also expected that the Tories will cut funding for the financial year 2017 – 2018 by a further 7.4%.
I have been contacted by many constituents who have expressed serious concerns about the future of our pharmacies and I agree wholeheartedly with them. Local pharmacies are vital to our communities and provide a crucial network within the healthcare system. They are valued highly by healthcare professionals and patients alike. Local pharmacies provide vital services, managing conditions, medicinal advice, blood pressure checks, home deliveries, all of which can avoid unnecessary GP and hospital attendances. If, as has been reported, 1 in 4 pharmacies were to close, then the effect on the elderly, the disabled and those with long-term illnesses would be catastrophic. As it is now, nationally 95% of people are able to get to a pharmacy within a twenty minute walk but this won’t be the case in the future.
South Shields already has a strong community pharmacy network, one that I and my colleagues in the Labour Party will fight to preserve because these planned cuts could leave many isolated and vulnerable residents struggling to access pharmacies for their potentially life-saving medicines.
At a time when this Government is encouraging people to consult with pharmacies in order to ease the strain on GP’s and local hospitals, these planned cuts are a huge contradiction, especially when the Government have placed local hospitals such as South Tyneside under threat and we already have a national shortage of GPs.
The Government obviously cannot claim that pharmacies are at the heart of the NHS whilst implementing arbitrary cuts. These plans are a false economy and the Government needs to think again and do it urgently before it is too late.