MPs call out unsustainable pressures on pharmacies

MPs from across the political spectrum called for increased funding for community pharmacy in a parliamentary debate held yesterday (21st June), on the future of community pharmacies.

Peter Dowd, MP for Bootle and member of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Pharmacy, secured the debate in Westminster Hall, which is Parliament’s second debate chamber. This followed work by PSNC and LPCs to brief Parliamentarians on the financial pressures facing community pharmacies.

In his opening speech, Mr Dowd praised the sector, for its ‘huge role in the vaccination programme, delivering an astonishing 24 million jabs,’ as well as distributing ‘27.6 million covid lateral flow tests and initiated a pandemic delivery service that ensured that 6 million vulnerable patients could access their medicine’. He put on record his appreciation to all pharmacy staff saying: ‘we all owe them a debt of gratitude’.

Mr Dowd then drew attention to the huge strain and unsustainable pressure the network is currently experiencing and quoted PSNC analysis which shows that ‘real-terms funding is decreasing year on year, as inflationary pressures, rising business costs and increasing workload are not taken into account’. He also referenced PSNC’s recent pressures survey, saying ‘worryingly, 92% of respondents said that patients were beginning to be negatively affected by the current pressures on their pharmacy’.

In the subsequent debate, six MPs spoke in support of community pharmacy. They were Taiwo Owatemi MP, Sir John Hayes MP, Anna Firth MP, Andrew Gwynne MP, Steve Bonnar MP, Jim Shannon MP, in addition to the responding Minister for Primary Care (including pharmacy), Maria Caulfield MP.

Ms Owatemi praised community pharmacists as ‘dependable and dedicated individuals who are excellent at providing medical knowledge and support for the communities that they work in’. She further quoted PSNC data on pharmacy closures specific to her constituency and encouraged other parliamentarians to attend a pharmacy drop-in that PSNC is co-hosting on Tuesday 5th July. She also quoted PSNC calculations that the sector could free up ‘up to 40 million GP appointments each year’ and emphasised that ‘the Government need to make full use of that potential’.

The responding Minister, Maria Caulfield, told MPs present that she is a ‘huge supporter of community pharmacists’, and that during the pandemic ‘there is no doubt that they stepped up to the mark and showcased what they could offer’. She told members that ‘We are in negotiations for year 4 of that deal (CPCF), so I am limited in what I can say about the funding, but I can reassure Members that the PSNC is negotiating hard and we want to work with it to expand services. Obviously, it is keen for funding to be attached’.

Perhaps expanding a little on the Secretary of State’s recent comments on the Government’s future plans for the network, the Minister also said: ‘We are considering all options for community pharmacy and how we build on the progress we have already made. It is important to say that although we have made progress, there is a lot more that can be done.

‘I reassure hon. Members that we are on a clear journey and we will be supporting community pharmacy going forward’.

The Minister ended on the topical issue of violence against pharmacy staff. She made clear that ‘there is zero tolerance for abuse and violence against community pharmacists—and, indeed, against all primary care staff, whether receptionists, GPs or community pharmacists themselves.

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