Up to 300,000 elderly forced to travel an extra five miles for medicine because of £208million cut to pharmacies' subsidy

Michael Dugher
Michael Dugher

Nearly 300,000 people, many of whom are elderly and live in rural areas, will have to travel five miles more to collect their medicines because of a Government subsidy cut.

The study by the House of Commons library laid bare how much further the ill and sick will have to travel for medicines if pharmacies close because of a cut in a vital subsidy.

The news comes as campaigners will today [tues] start a four day challenge in the High Court against the cuts.

Last Autumn ministers announced that the subsidy for pharmacies in rural and deprived areas will be cut by £208million in the 2017/18 financial year.

Campaigners said that up to 3,000 pharmacies in England are threatened with closure by the cuts.

The Commons library said that overall 1.3million people – one in 43 of the population of England – will have to travel further to get their medicines.

And it said that an extra 70,000 will have to travel more than five miles to get to their nearest pharmacy.

The worst place affected is an extra nine mile journey for people trying to get medicines in Appleby-in-Westmoreland in Cumbria.

It said that 920,419 people will have to walk between one and 2.5 miles farther to a pharmacy if their local outlet shut.

A further 297,384 people would have to travel between 2.5 and five miles if their nearest pharmacies shut.

Mike Dugher, the campaigning Labour MP, said: “The Government needs to urgently rethink these cuts.

“Community pharmacies are the first point of call for people with minor ailments and they are vital to supporting public health and preventing people needing to see a GP or visit hospital. 

“These cuts will also impact disproportionately on villages and rural communities. 

“We had the biggest petition in NHS history about the planned pharmacies closures, but Ministers have point blank refused to listen.”

Stephen Fishwick, a spokesman from the National Pharmacies Association which is backing the legal action, said a fund to help some hardest  hit chemists was not enough.

He said: “The funding put in place to maintain access to pharmaceutical care in rural areas is a temporary fix – a sticking plaster to cover a gaping wound.

“The truth is that people across the whole of England could lose vital community-based support, with inevitable knock-on effects for other parts of the health and social care system.”

Please review our commenting policy