Independent Pharmacies

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 9:13 pm on 13th July 2020.

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Photo of Paul Bristow Paul Bristow Conservative, Peterborough 9:13 pm, 13th July 2020

I congratulate my hon. Friend Bob Seely on securing this important debate, and I am grateful to him for willing me to participate.

This has been an extraordinary period. Despite its challenges, the coronavirus emergency has revealed many of the strengths of our health and social care systems. One of the most important—a system that extends into the community well beyond our fantastic doctors and nurses—is, of course, the pharmacy sector. Community pharmacists are a vital part of the frontline. For example, the Newborough pharmacy was crucial to that village’s response to covid, and I want to place on the record my thanks to Meb Datoo, his wife and their team at Newborough village pharmacy.

Just as the role of care workers has become better appreciated in the last few months, I believe it is time to value our pharmacists. They have been an essential face-to-face part of our response. According to the latest research, more than 60% of the public visited a pharmacy during lockdown. Three quarters agree that the NHS should make more of pharmacists’ skills, both in the ongoing covid-19 situation and more broadly.

I am a member of the Health and Social Care Committee, and I am sure that in the future we will look at the value of pharmacies. The Chancellor of the Exchequer is the son of a pharmacist—that is perhaps not well known—so I am confident that the sector is appreciated not only by the Minister and her Department, but in Downing Street. That appreciation is needed.

Although the role and potential of pharmacies is now obvious, many are struggling to keep their doors open. The five-year financial deal for community pharmacies came into effect last summer, but I fear that it is not sufficient to keep the sector going, at least by itself. The Government have increased funding for the NHS by a record amount, and I am proud of that. I am also proud of the huge additional support to tackle coronavirus and deal with its consequences. Pharmacists deal with those consequences every day, and they deserve their fair share. We cannot let them shoulder greater responsibilities without the associated funding.

I agree with my hon. Friend that the sector needs to know whether it is, in effect, being asked to pay for the costs of covid—whether it is being asked to pay back the £370 million in Government loans. I do not necessarily expect the Minister to provide that answer tonight. I am sure she is sympathetic to the points that have been made, and I therefore hope that she agrees that, although our pharmacies are an excellent place to acquire a sticking plaster, they deserve a lot more than a sticking-plaster solution.