Parliamentarians are set to convene and engage in a debate centred around the future of community pharmacies on Sept. 14. This discussion comes at a critical juncture, with pharmacies confronting unparalleled challenges such as workforce issues, medicine supply, and financial pressures.
The Conservative MP Peter Aldous secured the debate after applying to the Backbench Business Committee. While sharing his concerns with the Committee about the rising number of pharmacy closures in England, Aldous cautioned that there was a potential risk of approaching a situation akin to ‘pharmacy wastelands.
In July, two dozen parliamentarians, representing various political backgrounds, have jointly written to the Prime Minister expressing concern about the increasing trend of pharmacy closures. In their letter, signed by MPs and peers, they highlight the potential for further deterioration due to rising business costs and sustained funding reductions, which have already resulted in numerous closures.
Pharmacy Minister Neil O’Brien recently informed Parliament that there were 222 fewer pharmacies since the beginning of the year. Recent figures from the PSNC indicate that England has seen the closure of over 639 local pharmacies since 2016.
Community Pharmacy England emphasised the debate’s alignment with the upcoming launch of their vision for community pharmacy on Sept. 19, a project developed in partnership with The King’s Fund and Nuffield Trust.
“This presents a valuable opportunity for MPs to address the unprecedented challenges faced by pharmacies, including workforce issues, medicine supply, and financial pressures,” the CPE said. These concerns were highlighted in CPE’s Pressures Survey earlier this year.
CPE said that it had been sharing information with several MPs in advance of the debate and simultaneously encouraged LPCs and pharmacy owners to work towards persuading their local MPs to take part in the event.
After this parliamentary debate, the Health and Social Care Committee will hold a discussion centred on their inquiry into the issues affecting community pharmacy later this year.
In May, Labour MP Barry Gardiner warned that the government’s £645 million for community pharmacy is effectively ‘frozen funding’ for the next two years. Speaking on BBC’s Politics Live, Gardiner notes funding cuts pre-2015 and subsequent freezes, with the latest announcement extending the freeze for two more years.