More than 1,300 local chemists have appealed to pharmacist’s son Rishi Sunak to save them from closure.
A letter to the Chancellor, whose mother was a pharmacist, pleads with him to urgently look again at pharmacy funding.
Meanwhile, a Tory former Health Minister accused “Treasury bean counters” of refusing to give pharmacies the help they need.
It comes after the Mirror revealed thousands of family-run chemists could be forced to close their doors after years of chronic underfunding – with as many as three-quarters under threat over the next four years.
The letter reads: “As the son of a pharmacist, we are quite sure that you won’t wish to preside over the irreversible decline of community pharmacy, which has done so much over the last year to prove its worth and save lives.”
And it warns that unless changes are made to how pharmacies are funded, many will be “unable to survive – limiting access to health services in villages, towns, urban areas and in rural communities such as those in your own constituency.
“The inevitable result will be unemployment and more pressure on the NHS as people turn to GPs and A&E departments for the help that they can currently get conveniently in pharmacies.”
Mr Sunak has spoken of how growing up in his mother’s “tiny chemist shop” in Southampton taught him that politicians “should support free enterprise and innovation to ensure our future prosperity.”
His mum ran the shop for almost two decades, before selling up in 2014.
But writing exclusively for the Mirror, Tory former Health Minister Jackie Doyle-Price took aim at Treasury “bean counters” for “quibbling” over a tiny increase in funding which could make a huge difference to struggling chemists.
She wrote: “Our local chemists, some of the quiet heroes of the NHS, are being abandoned to financial ruin through consistent underfunding and the costs of staying open during coronavirus.
“Out of touch NHS England executives and Treasury bean counters are quibbling over an increase in pharmacy funding that represents a minuscule proportion of the NHS budget, but would keep thousands of pharmacies from going to the wall.”
Some 28% of independent pharmacies were already making a loss in 2019, according to a study by accountants Ernst and Young (EY) – with late-opening and 24-hour chemists most likely to be in deficit.
The report estimated the average pharmacy will be making an annual loss of £43k by 2024.
Without a fresh cash injection from NHS England, EY predicts many pharmacies will be unable to survive – limiting health services in local areas, and particularly in remote rural communities.