Thousands of local pharmacies in England could be at risk of closure because of Department of Health cuts, according to campaign group Pharmacy Voice.
The pharmacists’ group says that a quarter of patients will visit their local GP instead if access to their community pharmacist is no longer possible.
The government proposes giving more people access to community pharmacies, but says that in some areas they are too close together. 40% of pharmacies are located in clusters of three or more within a 10-minute walk of each other.
The average community pharmacy receives around £220,000 in NHS funding each year, 80 – 90% of its total funding. The government proposes cutting the amount of funding that some receive. This represents a cost saving of £170m.
Meanwhile, more NHS funds would be provided to certain pharmacies under the proposals.
Pharmacy Voice says that pharmacies play a key role in providing healthcare in the community, relieving pressure on busy GP surgeries.
According to the group, the proposals would mean the closure of up to 3000 community pharmacists. The impact would particularly be felt in deprived areas, where need is greatest.
Prof Rob Darracott, chief executive of Pharmacy Voice, said: “Increasingly, pharmacy is playing a key role in helping people lead healthier lives through interventions like smoking cessation and weight management programmes. These are important stepping stones to increasing life expectancy in some of our most disadvantaged communities.
“Losing a local pharmacy in these areas is simply not an option.”
A public consultation on the proposals closes on Tuesday.