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This debate could not come at a more important time for my constituents, because a potential 25% of the 42 community pharmacies in my constituency face closure due to the funding deal that this short-sighted Government imposed last week.
Pharmacies in Bradford West play a vital role in the total holistic healthcare services on offer to my constituents. My constituency is the fourth most deprived in the country, and we have one of the most diverse communities. Constituents face genuine day-to-day struggles to access the services and advice that they require. The 2014 patient survey report showed that more than a quarter of them could not access a GP appointment when they needed it.
We acknowledge the essential and diverse service that our community pharmacies perform and, in an attempt to maximise their impact, Bradford trialled the minor ailments scheme, which the Minister has referred to, in 2014. I spoke to Mr Ajmal Amin of my local pharmacy, Sahara, only this morning, and he explained that, in addition to the more than 100 people a week who walk through his door, an average 50 a week do so as part of the minor ailments scheme. Even if one in four people end up going to a GP appointment, that means 90,000 extra GP appointments a year in my constituency alone, at a cost of more than £4 million.
Bradford has a higher incidence of cancer, diabetes, stroke and coronary heart disease, and that is because poverty, deprivation and ill health go hand in hand—there is a clear correlation between them.
I will give a recent personal example. Over the past few months, my mother has suffered three transient ischaemic attacks. One of them was a potential stroke and she has already had cancer. Only last week, she was admitted to Luton hospital with an acute kidney infection. On Monday morning, it took 42 attempts for me to get through to my GP practice to make an appointment, but by the time I got through at 23 minutes past 8, all the appointments had gone. That experience is not unique to me; it is happening across the country. If we close community pharmacies, GPs will come under extra pressure. I have not seen a Government plan to give my constituency—which is one of five in Bradford—£4 million for another 90,000 appointments a year.
The reality is that the proposals will disproportionately affect those who need healthcare the most. Yes, we have lots of pharmacies, but the Government’s proposals do not take into account diverse communities with complex health needs.