House of Lords debate hears value of community pharmacy services

House of Lords debate hears value of community pharmacy services

October 20, 2017

Peers from across the political spectrum have highlighted the vital role of community pharmacies in a debate on the sector.

Last night (October 19th) Peers debated Lord Hunt of Kings Heath’s motion of regret:

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath to move that this House regrets that the National Health Service (Pharmaceutical and Local Pharmaceutical Services) (Amendment) Regulations 2017, in delaying the review of the regulations governing the provision of community pharmaceutical services, do not prevent the closure of community pharmacies resulting from the budget cuts in 2016–17 and 2017–18 and changes to the way the funding is distributed (SI 2017/709).

Introducing the debate, Lord Hunt said that his objection was 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. 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,” Lord Hunt said.

Both Lord Hunt and Baroness Jolly cited the PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) report which clearly demonstrated the value of community pharmacies. Peers also expressed concerns about the current 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 £612 million, that the wider societal benefits were £575 million, and that the NHS benefits to the tune of £1,352 million,” 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, which PSNC had worked to brief Peers on in advance, also heard about the social benefits of community pharmacies and community pharmacy flu vaccinations, and Peers asked the Government about the Murray Review and its grand plan for community pharmacy.

Responding, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Lord O’Shaughnessy, thanked all the speakers and 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 £22 billion in efficiency savings, and said that community pharmacy must play its part in helping to eliminate the 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.”

A summary of the debate is available in PSNC Briefing – Community Pharmacy Debate in the House of Lords or you can read the full transcript of the debate on Hansard.

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