Durham County Council is calling on the government to rethink its planned cutbacks to community pharmacy funding, in a bid to save what it deems to be a vital resource for the people of County Durham.
At a meeting of full council, there was cross-party support for the motion, which sought to put pressure on central government to maintain a fully funded pharmacy service, at a time when it is considering cuts of six percent to community pharmacies.
At present, government minister, David Mowat, has delayed the decision on funding cuts to community pharmacies.
But Durham County Councillor Olwyn Gunn said: “ This delay doesn’t mean a stop to funding cuts, it could simply mean a stay of execution, so this motion is still of great importance.
“A six percent cut to community pharmacies could force as many as 3000 chemists to close, with staffing cuts and a reduction in the services they provide. This seems perverse and illogical at a time when our NHS and our GPs are stretched and when patients are being told to make better use of pharmacies as an alternative to seeing their doctor.”
Currently, community pharmacies not only dispense prescriptions, but also offer vital health care including treatment for minor ailments, provide advice on drinking and smoking, undertake medicine reviews and run weight management programmes.
The council’s portfolio holder for adult and health services, Cllr Lucy Hovvels, said: “Community pharmacies are a vital facility for the people of County Durham and a service that many of our most vulnerable residents simply could not do without. The cuts being imposed by central government would have a detrimental impact on our communities and this is something we will be pushing to fight against.”
Mrs Gunn added: “Pharmacies are a crucial support in a creaking NHS and a pathway to increasing life expectancy in some of our most disadvantaged communities.
“If the funding cuts were to go ahead, it is inevitable that the hardest hit in our communities will be those people who have disabilities or health problems that make it difficult for them to get around and those who don’t have transport of their own.
“To put it bluntly the proposed cuts are arbitrary, brutal and crude. They will lead to closures, cuts to services and loss of jobs. They will hurt the most vulnerable.”