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Pharmacies 'Essential Service' Says MP Amidst Funding Fears

March 3, 2016 4:48 PM

Local pharmacies provide an "essential service" in rural areas and need to be supported, according to South Lakes MP Tim Farron, as pharmacies face funding cuts which could see up to 3000 close nationwide.

The government announced in January that funding for community pharmacy in 2016/17 will be cut by £170m. The cut, from £2.8bn to £2.63bn, is a reduction of more than 6% in cash terms. The cut is due to take effect from October this year, and community pharmacies in South Lakeland have raised concerns about the impact this will have.

In a meeting of the All-Party Pharmacy Group, Department of Health Minister Alistair Burt suggested that between 1000-3000 pharmacies will close across the country. It was also confirmed that there would be further reductions in future years. Pharmacies may also face further budget pressure due to changes to the Establishment Payment.

However, the government is currently consulting on the introduction of a Pharmacy Access Scheme, which could provide additional NHS funds to certain pharmacies on the basis of factors such as location. Tim has written to the Health Secretary to explain the crucial role that community pharmacies play in rural areas like South Lakeland, and urge him to ensure that they are given the funding they need.

Tim said: "The government's decision to cut the budget for community pharmacies could potentially have a devastating impact on pharmacies in rural areas like South Lakeland. In these areas, pharmacies provide an essential service going far beyond simply dispensing drugs - they are often people's first port of call for medical assistance and advice, and if they are forced to close due to these changes it will ultimately be the NHS which will have to pick up the tab.

"I have written to the Department for Health to make the case for providing additional help for pharmacies in rural areas, to ensure that they remain viable and can continue to provide the crucial service on which so many local people rely."