Pharmacists say: We can save the NHS TURN
Ian Strachan, chairman of the National Pharmacy Association (NPA) called on Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt to reverse funding cuts that could force thousands of High Street chemists to close and let them help him solve the growing NHS crisis.
Mr Strachan said: "As the Government wrestles the GPs to provide seven-day care, what will it take for them to recognise pharmacy as the solution?"
"The accessibility, convenience and professionalism of the High Street pharmacy is ready, waiting and available.
"That pharmacy on the High Street could radically reduce the demand on overstretched A&E departments and the bottlenecks facing doctors" surgeries."
Mr Strachan said millions of GP consultations and many A&E appointments relate to common ailments, which could be addressed with support from local pharmacies saving the NHS millions of pounds.
Treating ailments such as coughs, colds and sore throats costs the NHS an extra £1.1billion a year when patients are treated at A&E or GP practices rather than community pharmacies.
Pushing ahead with the £300million pharmacy funding cuts announced late last year, he adds, will reduce access to services offered by High Street chemists and put even more pressure on overstretched GPs and hospitals.
"With the recent cuts announced to pharmacy, it is inevitable that this situation can only be escalated as pharmacies may be forced to reduce free services and opening hours," he said.
"The sad fact is it all comes at a time when the nation's demand for community pharmacy has ironically never been higher."
Research commissioned by the NPA shows that there will be a considerable knock-on effect to other parts of the health system if access to pharmacies is reduced.
Two in five people (41 per cent) said they would go to their GP if it became more difficult to access their local pharmacy for the treatment of common conditions.
Almost a third (28 per cent) would go to an NHS walk-in centre, call 111 or 999 or visit A&E, putting more pressure on stretched NHS services.
Treatment in these settings is considerably more expensive than in a community pharmacy.
The pharmacy funding package, which the NPA is challenging in the High Court, will see their funding for December 2016 to March 2017 fall by an average of 12 per cent compared with previous levels.
The cuts, which could force up to 3,000 chemists to close, will begin to take effect just as pharmacies and the health service enter their busiest period of the year.