Summit warns MPs action is needed to keep pharmacies open
The PSNC convened an urgent parliamentary meeting of 15 MPs and leading figures from community pharmacy to discuss the challenges facing the sector and the measures needed to ensure the network in England survives.
During the discussion, part of the Save our Pharmacies campaign and chaired by the former health minister Stephen Hammond, the PSNC pushed its case for a fully funded pharmacy first scheme in England to be included in the government’s upcoming primary care recovery plan.
The attendees, who included PSNC chief executive Janet Morrison, National Pharmacy Association chair Andrew Lane and Ian Strachan, an Association of Independent Multiple Pharmacies board member, looked at the prospect of the scheme being commissioned on a local basis through integrated care boards. It was agreed there needed to be an alignment of local and national pharmacy agendas given over 90 per cent of pharmacies’ income comes from central NHS funding.
The PSNC said the meeting heard that “a piecemeal pharmacy first scheme would be inefficient and slower than a nationally commissioned service and would result in regional differences.”
It was decided that a nationwide “template” guiding ICBs when it came to commissioning the scheme “could be desirable” although “a nationally commissioned service would have immediate impact and help the recovery in primary care.”
Representatives from pharmacy also warned MPs that pharmacies have endured a 30 per cent cut in funding since 2015 as well as workforce shortages, an 80 per cent rise in locum costs in the last 12 months and are increasingly dispensing medicines at a loss.
Independent pharmacists, they said, were working overtime and sometimes without being paid just to keep their pharmacy open.
The summit heard pharmacy closures are occurring in areas of high social deprivation and health inequality, such as the North West and North East England, with more closures inevitable “in all parts of England” if “financial pressures remain unchecked.”
The MPs at the meeting were urged to make contact with ministers including the pharmacy minister Neil O’Brien and the prime minister Rishi Sunak.
“The Save Our Pharmacies roundtable was another critical opportunity to get together with MPs for a very open and frank discussion about the current challenges facing community pharmacies,” Morrison said.
“The situation is critical – pharmacies need a lifeline. If no help is forthcoming, government can expect to hear from more and more patients who are unable to access pharmacy services or even medicines.”
She insisted the meeting produced “an abundance of political goodwill towards the community pharmacy sector as well as very real concern about the future and the potential impact on the millions of people who visit us every week.”
The other 14 MPs who attended the meeting included Sally-Ann Hart, Peter Aldous, Anna Firth, Taiwo Owatemi, Bob Seely, Derek Thomas, David Rutley, Lilian Greenwood, Tulip Siddiq, Hillary Benn, Sarah Olney, Christian Wakeford, Daisy Cooper (researcher) and Victoria Atkins (researcher).