My Column on Community Pharmacies

The following appeared as my column in the Barnsley Chronicle on 2nd February.

I recently met with the Barnsley Local Pharmaceutical Committee in Grimethorpe.

The LPC represents all pharmacy contractors in Barnsley, and is well placed to discuss the work our local pharmacies do as well as the challenges they face.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, funding offers a real threat to our local community pharmacies that provide a vital service and lifeline for so many people here in Barnsley.

In 2016, a new two-year funding package was devised by the Government that would cut pharmacy budgets.

Between 2016 and 2017, for example, £113m was cut from the budget, with a further £95m to come the next financial year.

That’s £208m cut over two years, and the effects are already showing.

In fact, when these cuts were announced, an independent study by the House of Commons Library revealed they could force over 1.3m people to travel more than a mile further if their nearest pharmacy closes.

This includes 297,384 people possibly being forced to travel between 2.5 and 5 miles.

Given the vast proportion of elderly people who depend on local pharmacies, more consideration should have been given to the possible impacts of this decision.

What’s more, these cuts are nothing short of a senseless false economy.

The fewer services these local pharmacies provide in our community simply ensures more people seek help from busy GPs instead, or visit our overstretched local A&E department and place more pressure on this underfunded resource.

These cuts will only serve to push extra costs further down the line in an NHS already facing an unprecedented strain and in the midst of a winter crisis.

It’s time for sensible decisions on our local community services and assets that local people here in Barnsley rely on.

Cuts to pharmacy budgets isn’t one of these; folk in Barnsley can see that, it’s about time Government ministers down in Westminster do too.