It is a great pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Sir Graham. I thank my hon. Friend Jackie Doyle-Price for securing the debate and for speaking so eloquently. It is a pleasure to follow Jim Shannon; it is usually the other way around. He usually follows me, so it is a pleasure to do it this way around.
My first point is about the question of inoculation. A number of hon. Members have said that their pharmacies are already providing the covid inoculation. They are not doing so in my area. I raised that with the Minister for Covid Vaccine Deployment. He, like me, said that he wanted to be able to wander down to his local pharmacy to obtain his vaccine. His view was that it was not available because of the lumpiness of the supply of vaccine and that we would see more pharmacies coming online to take that on. Can the Minister comment on how we are getting on with that? How far have pharmacies been brought into the continuation of the programme?
I had my flu injection at my local pharmacy. It worked efficiently and discreetly, and I was pleased to be able to have it there. Looking forward, pharmacies have a great role in the ongoing provision of booster vaccinations for covid. However, we have a problem at the moment with the net closure of something like 400 pharmacies. We have a problem of funding there. Concern has already been raised during the debate about the emergency loans that were provided and being able to convert those into some form of grant, or simply to write them off altogether. Any policy needs to reflect the fact that pharmacies have had to provide covid-secure screening facilities on their premises, and that they have not been reimbursed for having to provide their own PPE.
For the future, there is a lot that can be built on the relationship between pharmacies and GPs. For example, I see a role for pharmacies in being able to detect undiagnosed high blood pressure in a number of people. When my hon. Friend Steve Brine was a Minister, he always said that I used these debates as an excuse to reveal my ailments. I am not doing that this time, but I am saying that this is a very good opportunity to be able to provide public health guidance for communities at a local level.