New health minister must listen to pharmacy closure concerns

Michael Dugher: The Barnsley Central MP wants the new health minister to act on concerns over pharmacy budget cuts.

Michael Dugher: The Barnsley Central MP wants the new health minister to act on concerns over pharmacy budget cuts.

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PHARMACIES remain at risk of closure in Yorkshire and the Humber if the Government fails to reverse £170m funding cuts proposed under David Cameron, an MP has warned.

Three hundred pharmacies, or one in four, are set to close in the region if the Department for Health continues its plans to cut its chemists budget by six percent.

Barnsley East MP Michael Dugher said the change of Prime Minister and appointment of new Health Minister David Mowat MP as part of her reshuffle should not kick the issue into the long-grass.

The Labour politician said: “Now that the dust has settled after the Government’s reshuffle, the new Minister for Community Pharmacy must urgently think again and save local chemists by dropping this damaging plan.

“By cutting community pharmacies, the Government is shutting down the first port of call for many patients with minor ailments seeking free advice and over the counter medicine.

“This can only result in more admissions to already overwhelmed A&E departments and more visits to overstretched GP surgeries – piling more pressure on our NHS and costing more in the long run.”

Mr Dugher said Mr Mowat’s predecessor, the Rt Hon Alistair Burt MP, had previously admitted that the cuts could force up to 3,000 community pharmacies – a quarter of all those in the country – to close.

There are 1,266 community pharmacies across Yorkshire and the Humber that dispense an average of 9,483 prescription items to patients each month.

The Government’s cut could force around 300 – one in every four in Yorkshire and the Humber – to close, according to their own estimates.

Mr Dugher has fought the Government’s planned cut as part of a cross party campaign of MPs, patients and pharmacists who delivered a petition against the plan – signed by 1.8 million people – to 10 Downing Street.

The petition was the most signed of any healthcare petition in history.

A Department for Health consultation document stated in May this year that community pharmacies must play their part in reducing general health spending.

It said there are currently more pharmacies than are necessary to maintain good patient access across the country and pharmacies qualify for a range of funding regardless of the standard of the service provided.

A spokesperson for the Department for Health said the final budget would be a matter for the new minister and no final decisions had been made, however access to pharmacies for the most vulnerable people remains a priority.

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