Cuts to community pharmacy in deprived areas could be “catastrophic” and cause a dramatic uplift in GP appointments, leading health organisations warn.

New research published today (23 May 2016) estimates that, if faced with a pharmacy closure, almost 30% of people who would normally seek advice from their local chemist would instead make an appointment with their GP practice.

Dr Mark Spencer, a GP in Fleetwood Lancashire and co-chair of the NHS Alliance, said pharmacy closures will deeply affect communities.

“At a time when there is an entirely unacceptable widening gap in life expectancy between rich and poor, extreme pressure on GPs, and increasing public awareness of the role pharmacy is playing in delivering services to support public health, it would be catastrophic if the areas that most need it, are deprived of access to this crucial community asset,” he added.

The report by YouGov, which was commissioned for Dispensing Health Equality and published by Pharmacy Voice, urges the government to take note of this in the light of the proposed pharmacy funding cuts, which could force the closure of up to one in four community pharmacies.

Professor Rob Darracott, chief executive of Pharmacy Voice, said general practice cannot afford to take on additional appointments that deal with self-treatable common ailments, and that losing local pharmacies in deprived areas is “just not an option”.

“People are increasingly aware of the role of local pharmacy plays in not just dispensing their medicines, but in dispensing vital health services.

“These are important stepping stones to increasing life expectancy in some of our most disadvantaged communities,” he said.

Recent research by Durham University puts pharmacies at the centre of tackling some of society’s major public health concerns such as obesity, smoking, and alcohol dependence as community pharmacy is easily accessible and boasts the greatest availability in deprived areas.

YouGov’s report seeks reassurance that in both urban and rural areas of high deprivation, access to local pharmacies will be protected.