Portsmouth pharmacies '˜could be axed' amid sweeping cutbacks

COMMUNITY pharmacies could close amid sweeping government cutbacks.

Friday, 3rd June 2016, 6:00 am
Updated Friday, 3rd June 2016, 9:12 am
Pharmacy staff fear that branches could be at risk under government plans Picture posed by models

The budget for chemists across the UK is being slashed by £170m a year.

Health minister Alistair Burt has said the move could hit up to 3,000 pharmacies.

Fears are now mounting over the future of the city’s pharmacies. It comes just months after it was revealed the Guildhall walk-in centre would be moved to St Mary’s Hospital.

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Jiten Shingdia, 33, is a pharmacist at RJ Berry Pharmacy in Sultan Road, Buckland.

‘Funding cuts will have a huge impact on the services we can provide, such as anti-smoking, weight loss and the like,’ he said.

‘Us being here means that people don’t have to run straight to their GP, which helps to take a bit of the pressure off them.’

Government ministers say the move is designed to thin out the ‘clusters’ of walk-in pharmacies serving in the same area, with pharmacies across local high streets likely to be forced to shut their doors for good.

But Mr Shingdia has hit out at this, saying: ‘It makes no sense – the government wants to close down pharmacies, force us to shut down, then they tell people to go to their pharmacist instead of their GP if they are feeling unwell.

‘It seems very hypocritical to me. If I was in a position to say something to the government, I would urge them to think again about their decision.’

The Department of Health (DoH) has stressed its aim is to improve service but did admit some pharmacies could be axed due to the cost-cutting efforts.

Rowlands Pharmacy in Winter Road, Southsea, has since launched a petition calling on people to back their local chemists.

A spokesman for Rowlands said: ‘Obviously we’re a nationwide company, but these cuts will hurt every single one of us, which is why we wanted to run the petition in the first place.’

Flick Drummond, MP for Portsmouth South, said the issue is one of her main concerns.

‘I am concerned local pharmacies might have to close and I have made that very clear to minister Alistair Burt when I met him to discuss this issue.’

She explained she is keen that pharmacies should be doing more to relieve the strain on GPs by administering flu jabs and giving advice on living a healthy lifestyle.

The Tory MP added chemists should have the ability to prescribe generic medicines to patients, and praised the work of pharmacies across the city.

‘Portsmouth has great pharmacies, full of dedicated staff and I don’t think there are too many in the city,’ she added.

‘I very much hope that the government will look at different ways to make savings after listening to the views from the consultation.’

The average pharmacy receives in the region of £220,000 in NHS funding a year.

Currently 40 per cent are based in clusters of three or more all within ten minutes’ walk, according to the DoH.

The changes are expected to come into force in October.

A DoH spokeswoman added: ’We need a modern and efficient pharmacy service and we believe this can be done without reducing quality or access.

‘We will help the community pharmacies that people depend on most continue to thrive, while we make the savings that are needed.’