A Sunderland MP has joined the fight for survival of community pharmacies in the face of government cuts.
Funding for pharmacies has dropped by almost 3.5% during 2017-2018.
This follows cuts of 4% between 2016-2017, leading to warnings that many face closure or offering a reduced service.
Bridget Phillipson, Labour MP for Houghton and Sunderland South, visited Whitfields Pharmacy in Houghton to learn about the important work done by community pharmacies to help local residents stay well.
During the visit, Ms Phillipson met with staff and discussed the various services they offer, as well as the challenges presented by government cuts to pharmacy funding.
The team at Whitfields were keen to highlight the potential of community pharmacy in relieving the pressure on GPs and hospitals, by helping patients with minor ailments and long-term conditions.
It is clear that community pharmacies have a critical role to play in reducing the pressure on hospitals and GPsBridget Phillipson MP
Ms Phillipson said: “It was a pleasure to visit Whitfields and learn more about the valuable work they do to help people in our community stay healthy, whether through providing flu vaccinations, offering advice on how to quit smoking, or supporting patients with long-term conditions like asthma and diabetes.
“As the NHS experiences yet another winter crisis, it is clear that community pharmacies have a critical role to play in reducing the pressure on hospitals and GPs, by helping patients manage illnesses and avoid unnecessary trips to the doctor.
“Yet as greater numbers of people turn to pharmacies when they are feeling unwell or need healthcare advice, government cuts mean that many are struggling to keep afloat.
“The growing demands on our health and social care system mean we simply cannot afford to lose these vital services, especially when there is such potential for pharmacies to relieve the pressures on our NHS.
“I will continue to call on the government to ensure that pharmacies have the funding they need to deliver for patients, and local communities as a whole.”
Mark Stephenson, chief officer of Sunderland Local Pharmaceutical Committee, which represents community pharmacies in Sunderland and surrounding areas, said: “It was great to showcase the important contribution made by community pharmacies such as Whitfields.
“These are much more than just places to get medicines; they provide a range of NHS services and ensure local people can get face-to-face professional healthcare advice without an appointment.
“We believe the Government should be making better use of this network of healthcare locations in the heart of local communities, allowing them to offer a range of additional services that would both suit patients and reduce pressure on other healthcare services.”