The government has no idea how many pharmacies could close in the wake of the 6% budget cuts and  there is no way predicting the effect of the swingeing measures, Alistair Burt has admitted.

The health minister for pharmacy made the comments in response to a written parliamentary question put forward by Labour MP Michael Dugher, for Barnsley East.

Dugher asked if there will be an assessment “of the effect of the budget reduction for community pharmacy in 2016-17 on high street vacancy rates”.

Burt responded: “A consequence may be the closure of some pharmacies but that is not our aim.

“We are not able to assess which pharmacies may close or what the effect on high street vacancy rates might be because we do not know the financial viability of individual businesses or the extent to which they derive income from services commissioned locally by the NHS or local authorities or have non-NHS related income.”

At an All-Party Pharmacy Group meeting in January 2016, the minister said that as many as 3,000 pharmacies could be forced into closure after the £170m cuts take effect.

However the minister insists in his written response that the measures are “about improving services for patients and the public and securing efficiencies and savings”.

In a second question, put forward by Conservative MP for Lincoln, Karl McCartney, Burt was asked what financial impact analysis has been conducted by the Department of Health.

Burt replied that: “The proposals were considered against the Public Sector Equality Duty and other duties.

“The consultation responses will inform the final impact assessment, which will be published in due course.”

The consultation into the community pharmacy cuts closes on 24 May 2016.