Campaigners welcome government U-turn on pharmacy closures
Plans to axe thousands of community pharmacies have been put on ice by the Government.
In a major U-turn, health minister David Mowat today announced that plans to implement £170m of cuts from next month had been shelved.
He made the dramatic climbdown in a speech to the Royal Pharmaceutical Society’s annual conference.
Former health minister Alistair Burt estimated that the cutbacks would lead to around 3,000 local pharmacies being axed.
More than one million people signed a petition calling on the Government to think again.
In his speech today, Mr Mowat said: "We’ve seen the petition, and that’s frankly an accolade to the way you are regarded amongst communities.
"There’s been a long consultation on the proposals and we’ve been considering the results of that consultation for some while.
"It was our intention that these plans go ahead from October. We are not now going to be in a position to do that.
"But I think it is right that we spend the time, particularly me as an incoming minister, taking time to make sure we are making the correct decision, and that what we do is going to be right for you, right for the NHS and right for the public more generally."
Labour MP Michael Dugher, who has been leading the campaign against the closures, welcomed the U-turn.
He said: "It is welcome news that the Government appears at last to be listening to all of us who've been campaigning against the arbitrary cut to community pharmacies and that they are now delaying this decision.
“We know that the proposed £170 million cut could force up to 3,000 local chemists – a quarter of all those in the country – to close down. We also know that this cut is a false economy.
"It is not only damaging to patients’ access to prescription medicine, but it will impact on public health and will increase pressure on our already overstretched GP surgeries and hospitals.
“Community pharmacies are vital to so many people in so many parts of the country and they save the NHS money. The Government's delay must now lead to a fundamental re-think so we protect our community pharmacies.”
Sandra Gidley, chair of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society's English pharmacy board, said: "I am heartened that a second look is being taken at the proposed community pharmacy cuts and that the Minister has recognised the strength of public feeling on the issue.
"We are pressing for the minister to meet with RPS England ahead of any final announcements because as the professional leadership body for pharmacy we are in a unique position to promote the clinical role of the pharmacist, and that includes in community pharmacy."