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Pharmacies

Volume 404: debated on Thursday 8 May 2003

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To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (1) when he last met the National Pharmacy Association (Northern Ireland), the Pharmacy Contractors Committee (Northern Ireland), the Pharmaceutical Society of Northern Ireland and the Ulster Chemists' Association to discuss the Office of Fair Trading report, The Control of Entry Regulations and Retail Pharmacy Services in the UK; and if he will make a statement: [105529](2) if he will publish his response to the Office of Fair Trading report The Control of Entry Regulations and Retail Pharmacy Services in the UK; [105530]

(3) what assessment he has made of the impact of the Office of Fair Trading report, The Control of Entry Regulations and Retail Pharmacy Services in the UK on the provision of health promotion and prevention services in Northern Ireland with special reference to the provision of primary care services and facilities, in line with DHSS&PS plans and priorities; [105531]

(4) when he last had discussions with his Scottish counterpart on the implications of the Office of Fair Trading report, The Control of Entry Regulations and Retail Pharmacy Services in the UK on health services in Northern Ireland and Scotland. [105532]

I announced on 26 March 2003 that I would not be accepting the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) report on retail pharmacies for Northern Ireland, and the Secretary of State fully endorsed that decision. I carefully considered the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) report, the comments received from a wide range of interested parties in Northern Ireland and the views expressed by MLAs and MPs from the political parties. I concluded that simple and complete deregulation, as set out in the OFT report, is not a realistic option and is not, therefore, the way forward for Northern Ireland.I indicated that I planned to continue to develop Northern Ireland community pharmacy services within the context of the forthcoming Community Pharmacy Strategy. This will provide the opportunity to consider how pharmacy services, including health promotion and health protection policies, in the future can best respond to the interests and needs of patients and consumers in Northern Ireland, particularly in terms of quality and best value. I also intend to negotiate a new contract for community pharmacies. The main thrust of these negotiations will be the implementation of the new Strategy, but I will also consider how the existing regulatory arrangements can be improved to take account of changing health policies.While I did not personally meet with representatives of the pharmaceutical profession here in regard to this matter, they provided very detailed submissions on the report which I took fully into account in reaching my decision. I have not had the opportunity to formally discuss this matter with the Secretary of State for Scotland, but the Department's officials have been working closely with their counterparts in Scotland, as well as with those in England and Wales, in the evaluation of the content of the OFT report.