Pharmacies play a crucial role in our community, they are a lifeline for many people, and in the face of unprecedented demands on health and social care services their importance is greater than ever.
The Government should be working with pharmacists and their representatives to develop and extend services that will take the burden off GPs and the NHS. Instead, it is pushing ahead with huge cuts which could cause as many as 3,000 pharmacies across the country to close.
It is clear to me that these cuts are driven by cost and not by concerns about care. The National Pharmacy Association has reported that 81 per cent of community pharmacies will be forced to restrict services for the elderly while 86 per cent will cut free services including delivery of medicine to housebound patients.
The Government is targeting 'pharmacy clusters' which have grown, often in the most deprived areas, in response to considerable demand. I fear that these cuts will result in the closure of pharmacies in some of the most deprived parts of Bristol West.
On Wednesday 2 November 2016 the Opposition held a debate and forced a vote in the House of Commons, urging the Government to rethink its cuts to community pharmacy funding and ensure that community pharmacies are protected from service reduction and closure.
While I voted for the Opposition's motion, unfortunately Government MPs voted against it and it was defeated.
I am very concerned that the elderly and the most vulnerable will be impacted most by these cuts and I will continue to support efforts to hold the Government to account on its decision. Instead of forcing through damaging changes, the Government should discuss with pharmacists how pharmacies can help to ease the burden on the wider NHS in a planned and cost-effective way.