Numerous MPs briefed by Community Pharmacy England took the opportunity to champion the sector and raise important issues during a Westminster Hall Debate last Thursday.
Both the Minister for Health and Social Care, Neil O’Brien MP, and newly appointed Shadow Minister for Primary Care and Public Health, Preet Kaur Gill MP spoke during the debate.
The debate was opened by longstanding pharmacy supporter Peter Aldous MP who thanked Community Pharmacy England for the comprehensive briefing and supported our key asks for community pharmacies including sustainable funding and regulatory reforms.
Other MPs, many of whom also cited Community Pharmacy England briefings, followed with their own contributions and related questions for the Minister.
Mr. Aldous asked for further details on how Pharmacy First would operate while emphasising the need for “a sustainable long term funding commitment”. He referenced six of our policy asks to secure the future of community pharmacies calling for:
Pharmacy funding to be reformed to give pharmacies a long-term, economically sustainable funding agreement;
A common conditions service to be implemented;
Building on other clinical service areas, such as vaccinations, women’s health and long-term conditions management;
Reform of the medicines market to stop dispensing at a loss and delays for patients;
Review of regulatory burdens to make running community pharmacies easier; and
A long-term plan for the community pharmacy workforce.
Steve Brine MP, Chair of the Health and Social Care Select Committee, also spoke positively for the sector and drew attention to the committee’s pharmacy inquiry which is expected to call witnesses to give oral evidence shortly.
Preet Kaur Gill MP, in her first debate on the topic since taking on the pharmacy brief for Labour, asked the Minister for an update on how negotiations with the sector were progressing. She asked what the long-term strategy to equip pharmacies for taking on more responsibility was, with many at risk of closure.
In his response, the Minister assured MPs that the Delivery Plan for Recovering Access to Primary Care set out some initial recommendations, including modernising legislation to make it clear that pharmacists no longer had to directly supervise all the activities of pharmacy technicians.
He noted that the current five-year deal was coming to an end, and Government needed to consider what came next. And he said that NHS England had committed to commissioning an economic study to better understand the cost of delivering pharmaceutical services.
The Minister reiterated that consultation was ongoing on changes to the legislation to enable pharmacy technicians to use patient group directions, and he said they were progressing legislation to enable hub-and-spoke dispensing. The Minister also assured MPs that the Government is continuing to monitor the number of pharmacies.
CPE Chief Executive, Janet Morrison OBE said:
“We are very grateful for the support of all MPs who spoke up for community pharmacies in this crucial debate. There was a key overarching theme to their speeches which must not be ignored by policymakers: community pharmacies have much to offer, but they need more help with the current enormous pressures and funding crisis that they are battling with.
This week will see the launch of Nuffield Trust and The King’s Fund’s Vision for Community Pharmacy, and we look forward talking about this to the many MPs and others who are passionate about the future of community pharmacies. We will be using the vision to continue to press for sustainable funding and other support for all community pharmacies. A thriving community sector is critical for the public, patients and the wider NHS and together we must make this happen.”
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