PHARMACY owners who are at risk of being hit by government cuts say closing will "hurt the country's health".

Hiran and Pinky Patel have run the Park View Pharmacy, in Bramley Road, Southgate for four years, and say they have developed a trusted relationship with their customers.

But in December last year the government announced pharmacy cuts of £170million, which could result in 3,000 pharmacies shutting.

While the Department of Health say no firm figure has been agreed, Mr Patel says it makes him fear for his livelihood.

He said: “It is not a case of just our shop closing down, the government is asking all pharmacies, which are valuable sources of medical information, to undergo serious cuts and efficiencies.

“We must try and prevent these cuts; the elderly will be most affected, as they will have nowhere to go for advice.

“I am not happy with the proposed cuts, it will see more pressure on GPs and A&Es; the government are sending mixed messages, as they are telling people to visit us before going to casualty, yet we may shut down and have a detrimental effect on the NHS.”

He said they have started a petition, which in two weeks has gathered 300 signatures, although he said other stores have run petitions for longer and got more signings.

Tony Burton, a Park View customer, said people should sign the petition at their pharmacy to show the strength of feeling needed to keep the pharmacies open.

He said: “All local pharmacies are under threat, the government seems to think it will be more efficient and economical if pharmacies are concentrated in branches of Boots and Sainsbury’s.

“It has been done very quietly – I saw the petition on the Park View counter asking for support, which was the first I heard of it.

“The Patels took over the pharmacy and have worked extremely hard, it would be a shame if their pharmacy was lost to us.”

Dr Keith Ridge, chief pharmaceutical officer for NHS England, said the number of pharmacies supported by NHS funding has risen from 9,748 in 2003 to 11,674 at 31 March 2015, and 40 per cent of pharmacies are in clusters of three or more within ten minutes travel time of each other.

He said: "Community pharmacy is a vital part of the health and care system, and that's why we are consulting on changes that will better integrate pharmacy into the NHS.

“We are looking at ways to make greater use of the skills of pharmacists in GP surgeries, A&E, care homes and other settings, and make better use of technology.

"These proposals will ensure we have a modern, efficient pharmacy sector which gives patients the support of pharmacy services when and where they need it.”