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Community Pharmacies

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:55 pm on 2nd November 2016.

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Photo of Jon Ashworth Jon Ashworth Shadow Secretary of State for Health 12:55 pm, 2nd November 2016

If I may, I shall make some progress. I promise to give way to the hon. Gentleman in a few moments, but I know that others wish to speak.

The Government will say that they are mitigating the cuts by introducing a pharmacy access scheme, but the scheme takes no account of the needs of the most deprived communities. The four constituencies that top the health deprivation and disability indices are Liverpool Walton, Blackpool South, Manchester Central and Blackley and Broughton. Not one pharmacy in those constituencies is eligible for the pharmacy access scheme. The least deprived constituencies are Chesham and Amersham and Wokingham. In Chesham and Amersham, 28% of pharmacies are eligible for this mitigating scheme, while in Wokingham 35% are eligible. [Interruption.] The Minister says that it is a disgrace, but those are the figures. Only this Department, which spins figures all the time and which has been discredited for the way in which it uses them, can call a pharmacy cuts package an “access scheme”.

Today, in an article in The Times, the Minister himself focuses on cities such as Leicester and Birmingham. He claims that if you walk

“along roads in Leicester you will see 12 pharmacies within ten minutes of each other”.

As the Member of Parliament for Leicester South, I walk along roads in Leicester every day. I do not know whether the Minister has actually walked along any of those roads; he has never told me that he has. Let me therefore extend an invitation to him to come to Leicester, where he will see numerous community pharmacists in areas with a high proportion of black and ethnic-minority communities providing specialist services for families who have relied on them for 20 or 30 years, often dealing with elderly people and speaking to them in Gujarati, Urdu and Punjabi. Many of those people will have to go to GPs’ surgeries and A & E departments if the pharmacies are closed. The Government’s assessment takes no account of the disproportionate effect that the cuts will have on black and ethnic minority communities in cities such as Leicester and Birmingham.