1.7m people backing campaign to stop pharmacy budget cuts

HUNDREDS of community pharmacies in Yorkshire could close if the Government fails to scale back funding cuts, campaigners have said.

(l-r) Kevin Torr, Pharmacist, Anita Darling, Medicine Counter Assistant, Bev Griffiths, Technician and Zoe Gawthorpe, Technician, at Oakbrook Pharmacy are supporting a national petition against governement cuts that will affect smaller pharmacies. Picture: Andrew Roe
(l-r) Kevin Torr, Pharmacist, Anita Darling, Medicine Counter Assistant, Bev Griffiths, Technician and Zoe Gawthorpe, Technician, at Oakbrook Pharmacy are supporting a national petition against governement cuts that will affect smaller pharmacies. Picture: Andrew Roe

Handing a petition in to 10 Downing Street on Tuesday backed by 1.7m people, MP Michael Dugher said plans to slash pharmacy budgets risk the health of those in the most deprived areas.

He said: “This is the biggest ever health care petition in history.

Sign up to our Politics newsletter

“This plan won’t save money. It just piles on cost further down the system in the NHS. We already have a GP access crisis and we already have an A & E in crisis.”

Labour's Barnsley East MP Michael Dugher

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

By the Government’s own admission between 1000 and 3000 pharmacies may close in the future across the country, a quarter of the total.

Mr Dugher, Labour MP for Barnsley East, believes national forecasts mean up to 300 closures in Yorkshire and the Humber.

He said: “Old folk are already struggling to get to their GP, or are having to go on one or two buses.”

Labour's Barnsley East MP Michael Dugher

The National Pharamcy Association ran the petition after the Government announced in 2015 that by 2016/17 there will be a cut to the pharmacy budget of £170m.

The cut, from £2.8bn to £2.63bn, is a reduction of more than 6 per cent in cash terms.

Among those handing in the petition was superintendent pharmacist, Paul Mason, who is chair of the Local Pharmaceutical Committee in Barnsley and Kevin Barron, Labour MP for Rother Valley.

Mr Dugher said: “Closing chemists is bad news for local communities and bad news for our NHS as community pharmacies increasingly save the NHS money by not just dispensing medicine but by giving patients free advice.

“The Government need to listen to the more than one million people who have signed the petition and should go back to the drawing board”.

On Tuesday evening Mr Dugher held a debate in the House of Commons and is hoping that following the discussion and handing in of the petition that Conservatives will start to back the campaign.

With a slim majority of 12 MPs in the House of Commons he hopes many in Yorkshire will take their side as it transcends political parties.

He said that the Government’s sole rationale behind the move is to save money, however in last few weeks they have started to use the argument that there are currently too many pharmacies concentrated in certain places.

“They have constructed an argument after the start of the policy to say really this is to do with clustering,” said Mr Dugher.

“If it was about dealing with clustering you need to be targetting areas of the countries where people think that somehow you’ve got chemists falling over each other on high streets.”

The Yorkshire Post has contacted the Department for Health.