The shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth has promised Labour will reverse the pharmacy funding cuts if the party returns to power.
Speaking at the launch of the Pharmacists’ Defence Association’s A Safer Pharmacies Charter at the House of Commons, which commits to ensuring pharmacies are securer places for people to receive health services, Ashworth said he understood the damaging impact the Conservatives’ measures were having on community pharmacies and patients.
The cuts, he said, were placing huge strain on pharmacies, jeopardising the existence of some and forcing others to reduce staff and services and cut corners. Labour, he insisted, was “absolutely committed” to reversing the cuts, some £320 million over two years, to community pharmacy’s budget.
“We need greater recognition of the pressures you are all under in your community pharmacies, pressures that have been exacerbated recently by the cuts to the grants that you get from the government,” Ashworth said.
“One of the first campaigns I was involved in when I was appointed shadow health secretary just over 12 months ago was to speak out in the strongest possible terms against the cuts that were taking place to the grant that you get.
“We had the campaigns in the House of Commons, we brought motions to the House of Commons. We pushed very strongly and we know the government managed to carry on with these cuts and actually it’s cuts when you look at, supposedly, a part of the £23 billion in efficiency savings that the NHS is being asked to find.
“But I think that reveals the short-sightedness of these particular cuts because it is not efficiency to ask you to do more and more on less and less.”
Ashworth added: “There were warnings at the time that community pharmacies would have to shut up shop but we certainly know that (pharmacists) are being forced to cut corners, being forced to cut back on services that you have been offering to your community.
“Sometimes letting go of staff, loyal staff who have worked for you for many years and that often puts more pressure on the qualified pharmacist, taking them away from doing the practice that they want to do.
“We are absolutely committed as a shadow health team which aspires to be the next government, and I aspire to be the next health secretary, to reversing those cuts to community pharmacies’ grants but also working closely on the safety issues.”
One observer at the Commons event told Pharmacy Business that Ashworth would be unable to go back on his promise to reverse the cuts if Labour return to power because the party is desperate not to lose the trust of voters.