Peers from across the political spectrum have highlighted the essential role of community pharmacies in a House of Lords debate on the profession.
Former Labour health minister Lord Hunt of Kings Heath tabled a “motion of regret” on cutbacks and reforms to community pharmacy, and on what he described as its “painful impact on thousands of people”.
On 19 October 2017, peers discussed the motion submitted by Lord Hunt, which regretted that “NHS’s (Pharmaceutical and Local Pharmaceutical Services) (Amendment) Regulations 2017, in delaying the review of the regulations governing providing community pharmaceutical services, do not prevent the closure of community pharmacies resulting from the budget cuts in 2016–2017 and 2017–2018, and changes to the way the funding is distributed”.
During the debate, Lord Hunt objected to the Government’s wider approach to funding for community pharmacy.
“My concern is that the cutbacks or reforms will have a painful impact on thousands of people and therefore need to be thwarted as soon as possible,” he said.
“By reducing the contribution that community pharmacies can make, there is a risk of an increased burden on already pressed GPs and A&E departments.”
Both Lord Hunt, and Liberal Democrat life peer Baroness Jolly, cited a PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) report that highlighted the value of community pharmacies. Peers also expressed concerns about cashflow issues facing community pharmacies, and the impact that a reduction in services could have on patients and other health services.
“PwC determined that patient benefits totalled £612m, that the wider societal benefits were £575m, and that the NHS benefits to the tune of £1,352m,” Baroness Jolly said.
“I suggest that when not only our GPs but our A&E services are under immense pressure from patients presenting with conditions that do not require prescriptions or that level of advice, this is not the time to take away from the high street the welcome and expertise of the neighbourhood pharmacies,” she added.
The debate was also told about the social benefits of community pharmacies and community pharmacy flu vaccinations, and peers asked the government about the Murray Review and its plan for community pharmacy.
For the Government, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Lord O’Shaughnessy, praised the role community pharmacy plays in the nation’s health.
“The work of community pharmacies is deeply valued by the Government,” he said.
Lord O’Shaughnessy stated the need for the NHS to find £22bn in efficiency savings, and said that community pharmacy must play its part in helping to eliminate the Government’s budget deficit.
He said there was “recognition” of the cashflow issues, adding: “The Department is working with the trade body and pharmacies to look at this issue.”