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Community Pharmacies

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 2:16 pm on 2nd November 2016.

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Photo of Oliver Dowden Oliver Dowden Conservative, Hertsmere 2:16 pm, 2nd November 2016

That is precisely the point that I am coming to. As we proceed with these reforms, hon. Members need to recognise that we will need further savings in this area. I am not attacking large retailers because of their size; it is because of the lack of such wider provisions. We need to look at ways of securing further savings from them which we can plough back into the community pharmacies that are providing the services on which all our constituents rely. I completely accept that pharmacies that are purely dispensing services are very inefficient as such. They are highly labour-intensive; it is just a very expensive way of delivering drugs. We need to identify ways in which we can bifurcate the two different types of providers.

I pay tribute to what the Minister has announced so far. He clearly demonstrates an understanding of the situation, as we have seen in relation to the protection of key local pharmacies through the community access scheme. For example, in my constituency, the services in places such as Elstree and Shenley, where we have small, rural communities, often with an elderly population, will be protected. Equally, the quality payment scheme recognises some of these wider community benefits.

However, I urge the Minister to do more in that area. Let me make two brief suggestions. First, we need more detailed recording of the sorts of services that are provided by pharmacies which take pressure off the NHS. As I understand it, there is no systematic way in which these additional benefits are recorded, and we are all working on the basis of estimates. We could have a system whereby the communities pharmacies systematically recorded the benefit that they provided, and then they could be better rewarded for those benefits. At the same time, there would be a means by which we could penalise, or find further cuts from, the pharmacies that did not provide those additional services.

Secondly, Dr Whitford rightly commented on the common ailments scheme that operates in Scotland. The Minister indicated that the Government are moving down that route. I urge the Government to go further on this. There is absolutely no reason why patients suffering from things such as common cold and flu symptoms or head lice could not be referred directly from their GPs to pharmacies, thereby saving money for GPs and providing additional income for those pharmacies.

I support the overall direction of reform, but as the Government proceed with these reforms, they could do with engaging more in looking at ways of supporting what is best in community pharmacies while providing further savings from the services that do not provide them.