Later this month, I will be joining Pharmacy Voice to deliver a petition to 10 Downing Street against government plans to cut £170 million from the community pharmacy budget [in England].
The petition, which has been signed by more than a million people, is a timely reminder of the vital work that community pharmacies do promoting public health and saving our NHS money by treating patients before they head to already overstretched A&E and GPs.
Ministers should be in no doubt that people up and down the country recognise that community pharmacies are invaluable for patients and that they are firmly rooted in the communities they serve.
Indeed, the government’s own letter [in December] to pharmacists confirming the budget cuts stressed the need to place community pharmacy “at the heart of the NHS”.
The letter also recognised the excellent work of community pharmacy “in prevention of ill health; support for healthy living; support for self-care for minor ailments and long-term conditions; medication reviews in care homes; and as part of more integrated local care models”.
So why on earth is the government hitting community pharmacies with a £170m budget cut that will, according to its own figures, force up to 3,000 – a quarter of all the community pharmacies in the country – to close their doors to the public?
I know from visiting community pharmacies in my constituency that hardworking chemists are at a loss as to why the government would undermine such an important pillar of public health.
Patients are also rightly furious that the government is cutting pharmacies on their high streets – thriving local businesses that provide skilled jobs as well as an important public service.
And community pharmacies are arguably more important now than ever, with the number of prescription items dispensed rising by nearly 50% in the past decade. It’s no wonder that more than a million people have signed the petition against the cuts.
Actions speak louder than words, and ministers must act to protect community pharmacies, rather than forcing them to close.
That is why the government must think again and David Cameron must put a stop to the planned cuts when the petition lands on his desk this month.
Read what’s next for the petition