Covid-19: Community Pharmacies — [Sir Graham Brady in the Chair]

Part of Backbench Business – in Westminster Hall at 2:13 pm on 11th March 2021.

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Photo of Chris Green Chris Green Conservative, Bolton West 2:13 pm, 11th March 2021

It is a pleasure to follow Taiwo Owatemi, because she effectively puts over the concerns of many colleagues across the country. I congratulate my hon. Friend Jackie Doyle-Price on securing this important debate and making a powerful speech championing the sector. My right hon. Friend the Minister, and the whole Health team, have done amazing work in general, but particularly over this recent period. For the wider agenda of the health service, pharmacies and high-street chemists are an important part of how we want the health system to evolve in the future. Making sure that this sector is secure, and can perform, in the long term ought to be a key part of her thinking about the way we support these places in the future. I did not appreciate just how many pharmacies there are right around the country. There are 11,500, with nearly 43,000 pharmacists and more than 19,000 technicians. As has rightly been highlighted, they are all medical professionals. There have been significant financial pressures, which, if not addressed, may challenge the ability of the Health team to develop and deliver effective health services in the future.

Through the pandemic era of the last year or so, access to GPs, hospital admissions and visits to accident and emergency have all been reduced. Those three sectors, and other aspects, too, are part of the loss from the mainstream NHS that local chemists on our high streets have taken up. We ought to credit them for that. It has put enormous stress and strain on those on the frontline in community chemists. They suffer all the pressure of additional hours, busier working lives, and concerns and fears about the risk of covid infection, as well as the pressure on chemists if someone is sent home for a period of time after a positive test. All those things add pressure. To some extent, for community chemists, as with GPs, there is vocational element, but there is also the aspect of the significant costs they have faced, which must be addressed.

Before the covid crisis began, there were significant concerns about the long-term financial viability of the sector, and I think those concerns have now been compounded. I express my appreciation of the chemists right across my constituency, especially those at Hootons pharmacy in Horwich, because of the work that they are doing on the vaccine roll-out, and for what they have done at the University of Bolton stadium to give so many people access to vaccinations. I support the recommendations of the APPG for pharmacies. Although we would normally want to reduce aches and pains and coughs and colds, will the Minister ensure that the Chancellor and the Prime Minister cough up the cash for community chemists?