Community pharmacies offer a very important service to their local communities, particularly to the elderly, the disabled and those with long term illnesses. Pharmacies also provide vital services to support over-stretched GP surgeries and hospitals. They have a special place in our communities.
Despite this, the Government will be pushing ahead with huge cuts to community pharmacy budgets. Such cuts represent a 12% reduction on current funding levels for the rest of the 2015-16 financial year and a 7% cut next year.
The cost of these cuts will be enormous with a Tory Minister admitting earlier this year that up to 3,000 community pharmacies could close as a result. These measures are being forced through despite opposition from the pharmacy sector, communities that rely on pharmacies and even Tory MPs.
In Hodge Hill alone, only 1 pharmacy is eligible for the Government’s ‘Pharmacy Access Scheme’ which aims to “protect access in areas where there are fewer pharmacies with higher health needs”, meanwhile 10 other pharmacies are at the risk of closure.
A report last month estimated that community pharmacies contributed a net value of £3 billion to the NHS, the public sector, and to patients and the wider society in England in 2015 through just 12 services. Were community pharmacies forced to cut back their services, the knock on effect on local NHS services would be substantial.
NHS funding and resources are already stretched to breaking point with A&E waits lengthening and GP appointments becoming harder and harder to come by. At a time when NHS is at breaking point, the Government should not be putting extra strain on our community health services. Pharmacy closures will only pile more pressure on a health service already in crisis.
Labour will stand up against these unfair cuts and we will also be urging Tory MP’s whose constituencies will be badly affected, to stand with us.