Anger in Norfolk as government presses ahead with pharmacy cuts

Every year around £4.7m worth of medicines is wasted, NHS figures suggest. Ben Birchall/PA Wire

Every year around £4.7m worth of medicines is wasted, NHS figures suggest. Ben Birchall/PA Wire - Credit: PA

Warnings that pharmacies in the region could close have been reiterated after the government said it was pressing ahead with plans to slash funding for community chemists by more than 7pc over the next two years.

Health minister David Mowat told MPs that chemists will lose 4pc of their funding in 2016/17 and a further 3.4pc in 2017/18 - but claimed the changes will improve services.

He stressed the importance of spending taxpayers' money in the most effective way possible, highlighting how many pharmacies are clustered together.

He also announced plans that 32 of the most isolated chemists in Norfolk will not have to shoulder such large cuts.

Tony Dean, chief officer of Norfolk Pharmaceutical Committee, said that while some of the really isolated pharmacies would be protected to some extent, the majority of pharmacies in Norfolk would suffer very badly.

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He said the only way pharmacies were going to be able to make ends meet was to cut back on staff, services or opening times.

'What we will see if far more pressure on and longer queues in pharmacies, perhaps, and eventually yes some will decide they are no longer viable,' he said.

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'In Norfolk there are lots of locations where there might be two or three pharmacies in a decent-sized town. That is the only pharmacy provision for miles around. To say that one or two closed that is okay is nonsense. The others wont be able to cope.'

'We don't have a quiet community pharmacy in Norfolk,'

Norwich South MP Clive Lewis, who organised a petition against the cuts, said he was 'appalled' that the government had 'pigheadedly u-turned on massive cuts to pharmacy budgets'.

'Here in Norwich, 1000s of people supported my campaign to stop the budget for community pharmacy being slashed. I was told time and time again what a senseless false economy this would be - giving thousands of pharmacy users in Norwich no alternative but to go to already struggling GPs, A&E departments, out of hours services or walk-in centres.'

Mr Mowat accused Labour of 'scaremongering', but admitted he did not know how many would close.

'It's possible that none will close, I do not believe 3,000 will close. But I would say this - the average operating margin that a pharmacy makes ... is 15pc. That is after salaries and after rent. The cuts we're making, or the efficiencies we're asking for, is significantly lower than that. There's no such thing as an average pharmacy, which is why I can't guarantee that there will be no changes.

'But what I can say is this - if there are mergers, if there is some consolidation, that demand doesn't go away, it goes to the other pharmacies in that cluster.

'And to say those pharmacies will be put under more pressure is just plain wrong.'

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