St Albans MP leads debate about future of community pharmacies

St Albans MP Anne Main in the House of Commons.

St Albans MP Anne Main in the House of Commons. - Credit: Archant

“Great independent local pharmacists” were highlighted by St Albans MP Anne Main as she led a parliamentary debate about the role that community pharmacies can play in an integrated health service.

She was speaking in light of the concerns voiced by small autonomous pharmacists about a new government funding package which has seen an overall reduction of four per cent in funding in 2016/17 with a further 3.4 per cent planned in 2017/18.

It has led to fears that some small pharmacies will go to the wall as a result and more people will be pushed to use GPs and A&E departments if their local pharmacists are no longer available.

Concerned that the the reform could ‘extinguish the light of the smaller pharmacy’, Mrs Main wanted to make the government aware of the continuing importance of pharmacies in communities and their potential to grow a ‘pharmacy first culture’ around the treatment of minor ailments and other health services.

She said: “In an ever-changing world we have a duty to continuously challenge the old models of health delivery systems. It is important to integrate community pharmacies into the NHS urgent care system and GP services.”

The MP told the debate that she had met local pharmacist Rachel Solanki from The Quadrant in Marshalswick last November and she had proposed that pharmacies could and should act as well-being hubs for the communities they served.

Mrs Main went on: ‘Can I urge the government to listen to the pharmacists when considering how to take this integration forward as we don’t want to lose the “good” in the system especially where it works well for our local patients.’

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She added: “In St Albans we have great independent, local pharmacists who want to get more involved. We even have the headquarters of the National Pharmacy Association (NPA) in St Albans who support independent pharmacies and help them grow.”

* The NPA has consistently warned that the government’s new funding package puts England’s network of local pharmacies at risk and misses an opportunity to dramatically improve healthcare across the country.

Its chairman Ian Strachen has accused the NHS of ‘taking a big step in the wrong direction’ which could see local pharmacies progressively replaced by remote medicines warehouses unless the government was persuaded to change course.

He said: “Instead of focusing on the so-called ‘efficiencies’ of automation and online supply of medicines, the Government and the NHS should seek to maximise the benefits of accessible face to face care and local pharmacy premises, which are a tangible community asset.

“Local pharmacists can do much more to help people manage long-term conditions and also to take pressure off GPs and hospitals by offering convenient urgent care services.”

He added: “Sustained investment is needed to unlock pharmacies’ potential - not funding cuts that undermine it.”