Essex Conservative councillors this week (Tuesday 11 October) rejected a Liberal Democrat move to protect community pharmacies and the vital role they play in the local NHS.
Instructing his Conservative colleagues to vote in favour of £170m cuts to local pharmacies, the lead Conservative speaker claimed face-to-face consultations with a local pharmacist were an "old way of thinking" and drugs should be delivered digitally to patients.
Putting forward the Liberal Democrat case in support of community pharmacies, Leader of the Liberal Democrat Group Councillor Mike Mackrory said:
"I've spoken to my local pharmacist, whose advice and services are really valued by residents. He gives advice on stopping smoking, family planning and flu jabs to relieve pressure on GPs. His free prescription delivery service serves a wide area including Care Homes and Sheltered Housing Units. These government cuts place these important services at risk. If community pharmacies close hard-pressed GPs and hospital services will have to take up the slack, which will cost the government more. This is a short-sighted economy which will cost NHS patients dear.
In response to the Conservative view that community pharmacy services should be provided digitally online instead, Epping and Theydon Bois councillor Jon Whitehouse added:
"There is a place for digital services, especially for routine services. But a website is no substitute for a face-to-face consultation, especially for the tens of thousands of Essex residents who are not yet online. Older people who are the biggest users of medicines are the least likely to be online."
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