Today’s columnist, Louise Haigh, MP: Keep pharmacies on front line

Labour MP for Sheffield Heeley, Louise Haigh
Labour MP for Sheffield Heeley, Louise Haigh
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With the NHS facing increasing pressures, unprecedented cuts to services, a national shortage of general practitioners and a population who are living longer, pharmacies have never been so important.

From prevention to reducing costs for the NHS, pharmacies are real hubs for communities.

They are often easier to access than many GP surgeries and are often the most convenient place to get information about everyday health issues.

Not to mention the massive savings: pharmacies currently save the NHS billions a year by diverting people from other NHS services.

Our pharmacies have a real knowledge base, not just about minor ailments and managing health conditions but also about lifestyle advice and promoting healthy living, flu vaccinations, addiction support and of course information on everything from sexual health to childhood ailments.

They are on the frontline of helping keep people well and helping to tackle health inequalities.

But all this is now at risk, as the Government plans to cut £170 million from pharmacy nationwide, putting a staggering quarter of pharmacies at risk.

Locally this means in Sheffield as many as 32 pharmacies could close.

Research from YouGov demonstrated that in deprived areas four in five people who would usually go to pharmacies would instead access their local GP services under these changes.

Demonstrating the importance community pharmacies have, most people currently live within 20 minutes’ walk to a pharmacy and to remove access to this fantastic service will not only affect people’s health and wellbeing but put a strain on local GPs.

NHS campaigns to help patients avoid A&E visits point to pharmacies as a principal part of the healthcare system.

The Government could be saving more through investment in these community pharmacies, accessed by 1.2million people every day.

In fact they could be saving an extra £1 billion each year.

Instead they have decided to destabilise primary and emergency care by cutting access points to vital advice and information.

I have been contacted by community pharmacy staff and concerned residents, and after meeting staff I have launched a petition which you can sign on my website. Visit Louise Haigh MP