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Community Pharmacies

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:21 pm on 2nd November 2016.

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Photo of Phil Wilson Phil Wilson Labour, Sedgefield 3:21 pm, 2nd November 2016

In my constituency, there are 22 pharmacies. Some 60% are not eligible for the pharmacy access scheme, which, I understand, is based on distance between pharmacies and does not take into consideration deprivation and other health issues. It is predicted that of the 22, six will close. In the Durham, Darlington and Tees area, there are 271 pharmacies, issuing 2.5 million prescriptions a month and covering a population of 1.2 million. The Government want to take £170 million out of community pharmacies, which is equivalent to £14,500 a pharmacy. That is a total of a third of a million pounds out of community pharmacies in my constituency or £4 million across the Durham, Darlington and Tees area.

A new pharmacy integration fund has also been announced. This was originally allocated £300 million over five years. I now believe that the figure will be £42 million over two years. The Government have admitted that these proposals in total will lead to the closure of 3,000 community pharmacies. Pharmacy closures will only place further strain on those pharmacies that remain open. More people will use GP surgeries and A&E departments when they need not do so. Pharmacies could be forced to scale back services, while being under increased pressure.

The proposal to encourage people to contact the 111 service for emergency referrals on repeat prescriptions, which will then be referred to a chemist, was described by one pharmacy in Trimdon in my constituency as “ludicrous” because

“It will place an extra burden on the 111 service, and ignores the fact most people who require an emergency supply of their regular medication will go to their local pharmacy who have their records, and who will bend over backwards to help. In the case of people from out of the area needing an emergency supply of regular medication in Trimdon this only happens around three or four times a year. Ultimately, the 111 service is designed to help people who do not know what is wrong with them, not to assist those who know exactly what is wrong with them and are already being treated for it.”

The Government’s impact assessment states:

“there is no reliable way of estimating the number of pharmacies that may close as a result of this policy”.

However, the figure of 3,000 has been mentioned and the question then arises: is that figure a minimum? Pharmacies offer important services to their local communities, the elderly, the disabled and those with long-term illness, and offer vital support to overstretched GPs and hospitals. I looked at the statistics: there are 11,700 community pharmacies and 1.6 million people visit a pharmacy every day. Some 79% of people have visited a pharmacy at least once in the last 12 months, with 75% of adults visiting the same pharmacy, and 2.7 million items are dispensed every day.

Pharmacies are increasingly seen as a referral mechanism to GPs for patients with possible early symptoms of cancer. Two in five of the pharmacies in my constituency may be protected—I say “may be”—but three out of the five will not be. They face an unsettled and uncertain future in an area with some of the worst health, deprivation and disability statistics in the country. More importantly, the tens of thousands of my constituents who use pharmacies will be affected the most. They will feel that uncertainty the most and will feel unsettled the most. With all that in mind, only this Government would introduce a strategy to close the pharmacies on which so many of my constituents rely.