A LAKE District family pharmacy providing an essential community service is under threat of closure as a result of funding cuts and rising drugs costs.

Simon Butterworth, of Hawkshead Collins and Butterworth, was forced to use £5,000 of his own money last November to cover drugs costs.

He told the Gazette that he had to dig into his own private savings as the money he is reimbursed by the NHS for buying medicine from wholesalers no longer covers his costs.

The pharmacy has also been hit by a reduction in government funding and sharp increases to the cost of wholesale medicines.

Mr Butterworth, whose family have been running the business since 1986, said that pharmacies across the country were under 'severe pressures'.

"We will hit a crunch eventually," he said. "The worst case is we go bankrupt. We are not likely to go bankrupt here because we own the property but I know there are pharmacies under really severe pressures.

"Pharmacies are borrowing extra money from the bank or taking loans from wholesale suppliers or digging into their own resources."

He explained that the rural location of the pharmacy offered its own set of challenges. Service users travelled from Sawrey, Rusland and Torver and if Hawkshead were to close, they would be forced to go to Ambleside.

"We provide a lot of services not just to locals but to people who visit the area," he said. "If we are not here it will particularly put the most disadvantaged people - with dementia, without a car or with other disabilities - at a real disadvantage. They are totally dependent on us."

In October 2016, the Government imposed a two-year funding package on community pharmacies which came into effect in December 2016.

According to the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee, funding was reduced by £113 million in 2016/17 – a reduction of four per cent compared with the previous year and then to £2.592 billion in 2017/18 – a 7.5 per cent drop from 2015/16.

South Lakes MP Tim Farron has also weighed in on the issue, tabling a motion in Parliament that calls on the Government to take action to save local community pharmacies.

He has called for the creation of an ‘Essential Community Pharmacy Scheme’ so that independent pharmacies get funding up front, protecting them from the costs wholesalers charge.

“Large national chains can obviously subsidise their pharmacy operation with other sales in store – but that option is not open to smaller pharmacies in some of our town and villages," Mr Farron said. "Yet, in those places, pharmacies provide an even more vital service, especially for the most vulnerable in our society.

“That’s why I’m calling on the Government to set up an Essential Community Pharmacy Scheme so that our local pharmacies can be shielded from the high cost demanded by the big drug companies.”

A spokesperson for the Department of Health said: "Pharmacies are an essential part of primary care, with over 1.2 million health related visits every day – that’s why we’re committed to ensuring they continue to play an important role in the health of our nation.

"Patient access to these services remains a Government priority—which is why we have safeguarded patient access in areas with fewer pharmacies, through the Pharmacy Access Scheme, so that everyone gets the care they need."