This has been a very informative and helpful debate. We clearly have an enormous challenge in this country in improving access to primary care, and the key role played by the community pharmacy in addressing that challenge will be vital. We have heard about the three shortages that the industry faces, and I urge the Minister to reflect on those: the shortage of funding and finance, the shortage of staff, and the shortage of medicines.
Sir George Howarth highlighted the impact of community pharmacy closures on deprived areas. It is clear from the maps that have been produced that the impact is disproportionate, including in some coastal communities, such as the one I represent. He also highlighted the key role that community pharmacies play in treating the long-term health conditions found in such areas.
My hon. Friend Steve Brine, the Chair of the Health and Social Care Committee, rightly showed that this issue is on its register. I looked at the registers in the Select Committee report and I look forward to the amber and red warnings turning into green notices in due course. He highlighted the importance of PrEP being available for community pharmacies—the Terrence Higgins Trust brought that to my attention—and I welcome the update that the Minister provided.
Judith Cummins clearly emphasised the importance of a prevention-first approach. We got the first-hand knowledge that is so important in forums such as this from Taiwo Owatemi. I was particularly struck by her emphasis on the importance of using technology and the specific problem with the manufacture of generic medicines—she made her point very well. The shadow Minister, Preet Kaur Gill, reinforced the potential of the sector and what an alternative Labour Administration would do.
The Minister highlighted the whole range of work that community pharmacies can do. He touched on the closures but said that there are actually more community pharmacists now than in 2010. I just highlight, from talking to community pharmacists, that when there are closures, getting consolidation of the sector across the country, so there is an even spread and we retain community pharmacies within 20 minutes of people, is not straight- forward with the current regulations. I urge the Minister and his Department to look at that.
The Minister also said there has been an 82% increase in registered pharmacists since 2010, but a lot of that increase may have been in hospitals and medical practices. The feedback that I get from community pharmacists is that they have challenges with recruitment and retention in their settings, and we need to address that. I was heartened by what the Minister said about regulatory reform; it appears that the Government are embracing that particular challenge.
Let me say, in the few seconds I have left, that this debate has served the purpose of highlighting the key role of community pharmacies and the challenges they face. I urge the Minister to continue to engage with the sector—I know he will—particularly when the extra report is produced on Tuesday.
Question put and agreed to.
That this House
has considered community pharmacies.