The strength of support for a petition against the government’s announcement to slash the community pharmacy budget by £170m reveals the decision is both “damaging and deeply unpopular”.

Following the shock revelation by the Department of Health (DH) in a letter to the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) on 17 December 2015, an online petition was immediately set up.

The petition, held on the official government site, has now far exceeded the 10,000 signatures required to earn an official response.

“The fact that so many have engaged with this petition at this stage shows that many view the Government’s plan to cut pharmacy funding as both damaging and deeply unpopular,” said Rob Darracott, chief executive of Pharmacy Voice.

“As more details emerge, and the public starts to understand what is at stake, it will no doubt garner more support.”

The DH letter, addressed to the chief executive of PSNC Sue Sharpe, said: "For 2015/16, the funding commitment for pharmacies in England is £2.8bn under the community pharmacy contractual framework (essential and advanced services).

"In 2016/17 this funding will be no higher than £2.63bn.

"We anticipate that the funding reductions will take place from October 2016, giving community pharmacies time to prepare for this change."

But Darracott has responded saying the speed of the 6% budget reduction “has the potential to cause profound damage to the sector and could put community pharmacy’s continued role in primary care at risk”.

He explained: “The letter from the Government leaves a number of crucially important questions unanswered.

“The Department of Health needs to provide far more clarity about its vision for community pharmacy and how it intends to place it ‘at the heart of the NHS’ – Pharmacy Voice will be pressing them to do exactly that.”

The PSNC declined to comment on the petition.