The government has pushed the pause button on plans to implement a 6 percent cut to community pharmacy funding from October.

In a speech to the Royal Pharmaceutical Society's Annual Conference, Pharmacy Minister David Mowat explained that the delay is to "make sure that we are making the correct decision and that what we do is going to be right for you, right for the NHS and right for the public."

Earlier this year, the Local Government Association - which represents more than 370 councils - warned that community pharmacies are at risk of going out of business because of planned budget cuts, which could potentially pull the plug on a vital lifeline for many elderly and vulnerable patients.

The 6 percent reduction in the NHS budget set for 2016/17 - equating to a cash shortfall of some £170 million - could force many businesses across the country to close, it said.

According to the National Pharmacy Association (NPA), Mr Mowat hinted that the two million strong petition it presented to Downing Street was a factor in the decision to suspend the budget cut, describing the petition as an "accolade" to the high regard in which pharmacists are held.

"Naturally, we are delighted that the Minister has confirmed that there will be no funding cuts from October as originally planned. Even more important is his commitment to review the jumble of accompanying policy proposals that so threaten the future viability of the pharmacy network," said NPA chairman, Ian Strachan.

"For the promised dialogue to be meaningful, it must draw on the experience of front line community pharmacists and focus on patient-centred outcomes. It has to be based on genuinely fresh thinking - it would make no sense to take as a starting point the discredited and universally unpopular proposals of December 2015."

Sandra Gidley, Chair of the RPS English Pharmacy Board, also welcomed the Minister's speech, noting: "I am heartened that a second look is being taken at the proposed community pharmacy cuts and that the Minister has recognised the strength of public feeling on the issue".

Around 1.6 million people visit pharmacies every day for treatment and advice, and there is widespread belief that the service could play a much greater role in helping to address some of the NHS' current challenges.