The government was asked to reconsider the "swingeing" cut to pharmacy funding and instead invest in pharmacy services during a debate in the House of Lords on December 6.
Baroness Cumberlege, vice-chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Pharmacy, asked the government how it planned to enhance the role of community pharmacies in providing NHS services. Lord Prior of Brampton, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Department of Health, replied that: "The government recognise the vital importance of community pharmacy. Our recent reforms will reward quality and embed and integrate pharmacies with primary care, improving the services offered to the public and making better use of pharmacists’ clinical skills."
Baroness Cumberlege drew attention to the recent PwC report which showed that community pharmacy contributes £3bn net to the NHS, the public sector, patients and wider society through just 12 services. Lord Low of Dalston suggested that, rather than cutting pharmacies’ budgets, the government should be commissioning more services from pharmacies to relieve pressure on the NHS.
Lord Hunt of Kings Heath asked whether the Conservative Party still believed in competition. "This policy is intended to reduce the number of community pharmacies in the high street," he said. "Why do the government want to reduce patient choice when the profession clearly can help reduce demands on GPs and A&E services at a very pressurised time?"
Lord Prior replied that supporting community pharmacies "to a very large extent" when 40 per cent of them are in clusters of three or more within 10 minutes' walk from each other "is probably not a very good allocation of resources".
Baroness Finlay of Llandaff asked whether the government would review the funding model for community pharmacy. "If they are undertaking more diagnostic services and reviews and giving more advice, while also rationalising the medication people are on, they are effectively advising themselves out of a source of income when they are reimbursed with dispensing fees," she said. "If they are going to lose income, it is very difficult for them to advise people to come off a range of medication."
Lord Prior replied that the government had only just reviewed the community pharmacy funding model and had decided to go from a purely volume-based payment structure to one with "much more quality embedded in it", and to remove the establishment fee over time.