Up to 100 pharmacies in Lancashire could close following savage government cuts to funding.
Pharmacists have warned of a severely curtailed service in the county after revealing the impact of cuts in funding from the government.
And health leaders have warned that closures will pile more pressure on already struggling services like GPs and A&E units.
British Medical Association deputy chairman David Wrigley said: “At a time when the Department of Health is asking patients to seek advice from pharmacists with minor ailments, it seems illogical to then start a closure programme of pharmacies.
“These closures would be bad news for patients and bad news for the NHS.”
Kaz Ali, pharmacist at Imaan Pharmacy in Grimsargh, said that his pharmacy is one that could be under threat.
He said: “It’s absolutely under threat, definitely.
“To be honest I think every single chemist is probably scratching their heads.
“It’s quite significant the level of cuts.
“We’ve had to restructure certain aspects of the business and keep looking at costs and we’ve had to reduce staff hours. We’ve had to reach out and look at alternative things.”
Rowlands pharmacy has some 400 branches nationwide, including a branch on Ribbleton Avenue in Preston.
A company spokesman said: “We are currently working through what the implications are. The overriding view is that it’s disappointing that the government has imposed this particular contract on us when other parts of the NHS are struggling and community pharmacy has the potential to help those struggling parts of the NHS out of their difficulties.”
Dr David Wrigley is a Lancaster GP and deputy chairman of the British Medical Association.
He said: “These closures would be bad news for patients and bad news for the NHS.
“At a time when the Department of Health are asking patients to seek advice from pharmacists with minor ailments it seems illogical to then start a closure programme of pharmacies.
“Pharmacists offer a fantastic service and are able to advise patients on a whole variety of illnesses. The government need to rethink and support pharmacies and ensure none of them close”
The changes have been the subject of fierce opposition from the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Condition, which negotiates payments with the Department of Health. Pharmacies get about 90 per cent of their income from the money government pays for dispensing prescriptions. It costs the taxpayer £2.8bn a year across England and Wales.
Now the government wants to cut the funding pharmacies get by 12 per cent in the first year and four per cent next year, followed by an extra cut of seven per cent the following year.
Around two million people have already signed a petition against the proposal.
The shock statistics on likely county closures were revealed to the Post in the wake of a visit by NHS England to the Lancashire Health and Wellbeing Board.
NHS officers Sheena Wood and Jessica Partington told Board members that they now have a legal obligation to respond and comment within 45 days on any proposals for pharmacy mergers.
Dr Sakthi Karunanini, Director of Public Health at Lancashire County Council, said: “We really need to work in tandem between NHS England decision making process and the Health and Wellbeing Board.”
He asked for an assurance that the two organisations would work together, particularly on community consultation.
After the meeting a county council spokesperson said: “Changes in legislation mean that the Health and Wellbeing Board must comment on future applications for pharmacies across the county. As a consultee the Board will provide feedback as part of the decision making process.”
A future meeting of the board will consider an assessment of the county’s pharmaceutical needs, which is currently being prepared.