The pharmacy minister has backtracked on his prediction that up to 3,000 pharmacies could close as a result of the planned funding cuts.
Alistair Burt MP told the House of Commons that it "was not the aim of the government to close pharmacies".
He stressed the government does not yet know "how the funding will fall", when questioned by Labour MP George Howarth on how the cuts would affect independent pharmacies and those in deprived communities.
"I accept it was me who said to the meeting with the all-party [pharmacy] group that up to 3,000 pharmacies could be affected, but it may not happen that way at all," Mr Burt said during a parliamentary debate on Tuesday evening (May 24).
Pharmacy funding not based "purely on location"
He also confirmed that the proposed system of pharmacy funding – set to replace establishment payments – will not be allocated "purely on location" and will take into account areas of deprivation.
Labour MP Michael Dugher called for, and led, the debate about community pharmacy funding. He stressed that there is “massive opposition” to the planned cuts.
The government must “listen to the public” and “consider the mounting evidence that the cuts will be bad for many of our local communities”, Mr Dugher said. “It is a reckless leap into unknown and it is the NHS, patients and every community in the country that will pay the price,” he said.
Cuts "make no sense"
Labour MP for Sefton Central Bill Esterson said it “makes no sense” to cut a service that can provide the support necessary to make up for the “challenging circumstances” faced by GPs.
Fellow Labour MP for Halifax Holly Lynch said if the 3,000 closures come to pass, it would raise “very serious questions" about how the government has reorganised the NHS.
Mr Burt has previously dodged the issue of how funding cuts will affect rural and urban pharmacies, when answering written questions from MPs.
The debate took place on the same day a National Pharmacy Association petition against the cuts was delivered to the Prime Minister.