In an oral parliamentary debate on community pharmacy held on Monday (20 March), the government was asked for an indication of ‘how much it would cost to make the best use of community pharmacies’.
A number of Peers at the House of Lords spoke out in support of pharmacies, while others asked when would the government address the current crisis in the sector.
Kicking off the session, Baroness Hodgson asked the responding minister, Lord Evans, about recent pharmacy closures as well as underfunding. She asked whether the government would ‘enter into discussions with PSNC to look at introducing a fairly funded pharmacy first service as soon as possible which will help relieve the work load on GPs’.
The minister responded: “We have already introduced and funded a range of service in community pharmacy that make use of the clinical skills of pharmacy teams… we continue to discuss with PSNC how the government can best support the sector to provide support to patients.”
The House of Lords oral questions session was opened by Baroness Hodgson on behalf of Baroness Cumberlege as follows: “To ask His Majesty’s Government what plans they have for making the best use of community pharmacies”.
The Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) had briefed peers across all parties ahead of the session. Lord Scriven raised the issue of PCNs recruiting community pharmacists, asking what the government was going to do to deal with this problem as a matter of urgency.
Lord Grade asked the government: ‘What has to happen… for the government to realise that there’s a crisis? … The government seems to be in total denial.”
“Many pharmacies are going to the wall and are faced with huge inflationary pressures and all we get are platitudes from the Government, when are they going to do something?”, asked Lord Hunt, former Lords deputy leader.
Baroness Jolly, Lib Dem Health spokesperson, asked for an indication from the government of how much this would cost to make best use of pharmacies. The minster indicated he will provide these figures shortly.
In her response, Janet Morrison, the PSNC chief executive, said: “We are very grateful for the support of all peers who spoke up for community pharmacies today. It is clear that there is an abundance of political goodwill towards the sector, as well as very real concern about the future and the potential impact on the millions of people who visit us every week.
“We hope government will take note of this political will and take urgent action to preserve the network of community pharmacies, to safeguard safe and reliable access to medicines for patients and the public.”