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westminsterhallFebruary 24 2016

MPs have expressed their support for pharmacy and concerns over government proposals to cut pharmacy remuneration by 6%.

Derek Thomas, Conservative MP for St Ives, Cornwall, opened the 90-minute long Westminster Hall debate referring to the open letter the Department of Health had sent to the pharmacy negotiating body PSNC on December 17 2015. He noted that the letter had initially discussed the potential for far greater use of community pharmacy before setting out its plans to reduce the funding commitment by £170 million from October.

“Therein lies the problem. We have a front-line NHS service that is valued and depended on and able to embrace new clinical responsibilities and meet the demands of an ageing population, but it is unsure about its future,” he said.

Mr Thomas endorsed comments from other MPs saying that the NHS and hospitals will have to pick up the burden of services such as smoking cessation, cholesterol testing and blood pressure testing. he also noted people in urban areas are resorting to going to A&E as they cannot get a convenient GP appointment time.

He added that the potential impact on patient services was of particular concern for independent pharmacies in rural areas, “where it is much more difficult to access acute services and GP practices.

“The community pharmacist is part of the solution, not part of the problem, in what we want to do for the NHS ... we need to do all we can to support the development of community pharmacists rather than take away money that they need,” he said. “We need clarity about how the money will be found, if it must be found. I believe that there are other ways to save money, particularly involving the use and waste of drugs.”

Alex Chalk, MP for Cheltenham, said that “although no one is against sensible savings ... nothing should be done to undermine the excellent job done by community pharmacists in diverting patients from primary care, or to add to the burden on hard-pressed GPs”

Mr Thomas commented: “I want the Government to examine the value of community pharmacists and to consider how they can do some of the work—in fact, a large part of the work—that would save money for NHS acute services.

“Pharmacists give free, over-the-counter advice to thousands of people every day, promoting self-care and diverting patients from GP and urgent care services. However, it is estimated that £2 billion-worth of GP consultations a year are still being taken by patients with symptoms that pharmacists could treat.”

He set out a number of questions for the Government:

  • has the Government made any impact assessment in relation to their position of reducing community pharmacy numbers and the impact that this change might have on the health, and economic and social wellbeing of people living in our area?
  • what assessment has it made of the impact that such a reduction would have on the workload of GPs, those in A&E and those providing out-of-hours services, if patients cannot access their regular pharmacy and then visit these other services
  • what assurances can the Government give to independent community pharmacists?
  • what consultation has been conducted with pharmacy patients, and what would their concerns be if community pharmacies were to close?

Sir Kevin Barron MP, who chairs the all-party group on pharmacy in Parliament, said: “The Government make great claims about putting an extra £8 billion into the national health service, but the truth is that that £170 million, which is part of the £22 billion of efficiency savings, is being taken out of the NHS, so it is hardly new money. It is not the £8 billion—that comes in a few years’ time. We are talking here about major cuts to vital services.”

He called on the Government to furnish further details of how it will ensure access to pharmacy services in remote or deprived communities. He also warned of the prospect of a “commoditised medicine supply service with an increased focus on warehouse dispensing and online services.

Responding to the debate, the Minister for Community and Social Care, Alistair Burt, said the average pharmacy receives £220,000 a year in NHS funding. “The Government contend that money can perhaps be saved in one place and used elsewhere for the delivery of new services. That is the reality of life,” he said.

“I want to work with NHS England to promote local commissioning of community pharmacy within the health community, so that we can ensure the best use of this valuable resource. That is why we are consulting on how best to introduce a pharmacy integration fund to help to transform the way pharmacists and community pharmacy will operate in the NHS of the future. By 2020-21, we will have invested £300 million in the fund.”

Link:

Hansard report of Westminster Hall debate

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