PHARMACIES in the region are finding funding cuts a bitter pill to swallow as they do their bit to ease pressure on GP surgeries and A&E departments.

That was the message passed to one appreciative North-East MP during a visit to a local chemist in her constituency.

Bridget Phillipson, the Labour member for Houghton and Sunderland South, called into Whitfield’s, in Church Street, Houghton-le-Spring, to be briefed on the vital role community pharmacies perform in helping to deliver an efficient health service to the public.

She was told funding for pharmacies fell by almost 3.5-per cent during 2017/18, following a 4pc cut over in 2016/17.

It has left several pharmacies warning they may be faced with closure or having to make service reductions.

Staff at Whitfield’s were keen to stress the role such premises provide in relieving the winter strain on the health service, by assisting patients with minor ailments, or more long-term conditions, often negating the need for them to go on to make GP or hospital visits.

The impressed MP left underlining the “valuable work” performed by local chemists, helping people in the community to stay healthy and avoid potentially unnecessary visits to surgeries or to A&E.

She added: “The growing demands on our health and social care system mean we simply cannot afford to lose these vital services.”