THE owner of Marlborough's only independent chemists is delighted that townsfolk are backing a petition against proposed government cuts, which he fears could close his business.

Tim Jephson, the owner of Kennet Pharmacy in George Lane, has seen more than 1,000 people sign the petition in his shop in just two weeks. The chemists is opposite the local GP surgery, is a well-used service in the community.

The petition follows the announcement by the Department of Health to axe up to 3,000 pharmacies this year, along with cutting funding for them to £2.63 billion from October, down from £2.8 billion this financial year.

Mr Jephson said: “The proposal of replacements is a dangerous exercise. The government is planning on cuts without a specific direction. Communities like Marlborough could lose all their pharmacies. The government are talking about a central warehouse where medicine would be sent out from, and we think it’s very dangerous.

“The reaction we have encountered is fear, real fear from people who may lose their pharmacy. Just the other morning a lady came in with a severe cut, bleeding quite a lot. We are not an A and E but we would never turn someone away, and with the recent messages about people not bothering their GP with certain things, she had listened and come to us. We need to get the message out there,” added Mr Jephson.

A number of people in Marlborough have expressed their concerns about the proposed cuts, emphasising their need for a chemists in the town.

Val Pinker, 88, of Castle Court, said: “I was appalled. I think a lot of older people will find it very difficult to get their medicine. I heard one person say that even Boots may close, but when I asked someone there they hadn’t heard about it or the cuts. It wasn’t broadcast well at all. I am very concerned about it.”

Many people who live in sheltered housing schemes and residential homes in Marlborough share Mrs Pinker's concerns, as they rely on the town's pharmacies to deliver their medicines.

Robert Macmillan, who lives at Churchill Court, in Kelham Gardens, said: “I cannot believe any of this. Not so long ago the value of pharmacies to the community was being highly praised and we were being urged to support them.

“Nowadays we may have to wait three weeks to see our doctor; we are constantly being told that hospitals are full and that A and E departments are overflowing. We need our community pharmacies now as ever before. The government must think long and hard before rushing to implement policies that may have direct consequences for local pharmacies and the people they serve.”

The nationwide petition has already gathered more than10,000 signatures, with the number still rising. A number of petitions can be found at local pharmacies as well as online. To sign the petition you can visit, or call in at Kennet Pharmacy.