MPs told Alistair Burt, minister of state for Community and Social Care, that cutting funding to community pharmacies is backward and detrimental for general practice and the NHS, in a passion-fuelled debate yesterday.
The debate – brought by Derek Thomas, MP for St Ives, Cornwall – focused on the government’s proposed £170m cuts to community pharmacy funding in 2016/17.
Announced on 17 December by Burt, the cut (from £2.8bn to £2.63bn) is a reduction of more than 6% in cash terms.
“It is perverse that we judge reducing support for services such as community pharmacies as a saving,” Thomas argued in Westminster Hall, where Burt was sat listening.
The cuts could mean a quarter of community pharmacies (around 3,000) in England will have to close.
Stephen Bund (pictured speaking), MP for Ealing North, London, argued: “This is against the grain of all the current thinking, not just Carter, not just the Five Year Forward View, the NHS document that actually talked about an enhanced role of the community pharmacist, but against every single professional body… Everyone sees this as a retrogressive step which not only make the situation worse, but cannot be justified because of the knock-on cost on overcrowded GP services.
“I happen to believe the minister (Burt) is a good and decent man. I fear that I can see the handcuffs of the treasury holding him tight… and this is nothing to do with improving patient services,” he added.
The MPs widely agreed that these pharmacies are essential members of the multi-disciplinary team and can reduce drug waste, help with minor injuries and offer flu vaccinations, among other things.
Thomas concluded: “While the way community pharmacies are utilised needs to be reviewed, a blanket removal of funds to pharmacies will only hinder this progress and this opportunity.”