Only a few days to go: We’re raising £25,000 to keep TheyWorkForYou running and make sure people across the UK can hold their elected representatives to account.

Donate to our crowdfunder

Community Pharmacies

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:04 pm on 2nd November 2016.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Tristram Hunt Tristram Hunt Labour, Stoke-on-Trent Central 3:04 pm, 2nd November 2016

I support the Opposition motion and pay tribute to the great campaigning leadership shown by my hon. Friend Michael Dugher and the shadow Health Secretary in bringing this matter to public attention and opposing the £170 million of cuts, the 12% reduction in funding and the further 7% reduction next year, and the threat to shorten the working hours in pharmacies and to strip out jobs in local pharmacies, which will have an impact, particularly in high-poverty communities. We are having this debate on the day that the Resolution Foundation reports that tax cuts since 2010 have taken £32 billion out of the Exchequer, so this debate is about political choice. It is about where we put public funds and whether we support the impact on high-poverty communities that the Opposition believe these cuts to pharmacies will engender.

I will focus briefly on the situation in Stoke-on-Trent. My constituency has a very good Miltons chemist in Stoke and the Norfolk Street pharmacy in Hanley, which is a former pub that was converted into an excellent community pharmacy. Those pharmacies are very concerned about the impact of the proposed cuts. Earlier this week in the Chamber, the Secretary of State for Health acknowledged the stress on healthcare in Stoke-on-Trent. He is coming to the city to see the Royal Stoke hospital because the closure of Stafford hospital and the community hospitals at Longton, Cheadle and Bradwell, and the pressure on our GPs, are putting immense pressure on it.

Part of the answer has to be ensuring that we have primary preventive care, of which pharmacies are an essential component. Everything we have heard in this Chamber is about the enormous contribution they make and should make to healthcare provision, yet the trajectory of Government policy is to undermine that provision. We know that if people do not have access to pharmacies, they try to get appointments at the GP. We know that in disadvantaged communities, more and more people would seek to do that.

We have addressed the issue of clustering, with too many pharmacies being clustered together. However, we know from the Durham University report that this is a particular issue in high-poverty communities. As the shadow Health Secretary put it, pharmacies have a particular value in local communities in terms of the language skills they offer black and minority ethnic communities, their opening hours and the trust and confidence engendered by the professionals running these operations. To strip that out will, as my hon. Friend Jim McMahon said, wreak enormous costs down the line through the impact on healthcare.

I urge the Minister, who is financially astute, to understand that it will be a gross disservice if those who are hardest hit by these reforms are the family-run community pharmacies, while highly indebted, highly leveraged multinational pharmacies, whose taxes are not always located in the UK, somehow do not take the hit. Family pharmacies that contribute to the UK through their taxes and their community role should not be the victims of this change.

I agree with reform to the NHS. I do not have some Ken Loach fetishisation of the past. I believe in modernisation and reform. There was much that I agreed with in what Alistair Burt said about reforms in pharmacies. However, we must ensure that this modernisation is built around progressive reform, particularly for low-income communities such as Stoke-on-Trent, and is not simply based on cost and political choice, which the Resolution Foundation has highlighted today.