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Volume 955: debated on Tuesday 24 October 1978

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asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if he has any plans in view to deal with the problems of the increasing lack of pharmacists in urban and rural areas, and the need to review the position in so far as it affects those persons in urgent need of prescriptions.

The new differential on-cost system of payment for National Health Service dispensing, which has recently become fully effective, is specifically designed to help smaller pharmacies, which are at most risk of closure, by ensuring a more equitable distribution of the funds available. This should reduce their vulnerability and thus help to maintain an adequate network of pharmacies. I will be reviewing the working of the new system at the end of the year. With the agreement of the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee the criteria for payments under the essential small pharmacies scheme have also been modified so that more pharmacies qualify for help.