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Pharmacies “Control of Entry” Reforms

Volume 447: debated on Tuesday 13 June 2006

On 17 July 2003, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry announced the Government's response for England to the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) report “The control of entry regulations and retail pharmacy services in the UK” 17 July 2003, Official Report, columns 76-79WS.

This set out a balanced package of reform measures which we have introduced largely by amending secondary legislation effective from April 2005.

Two remaining measures are in the Health Bill currently before Parliament. These are charging for pharmacy applications and including provision for NHS Primary Care Trusts to take into account, when assessing competing applications, the improvements they would bring to the provision of, or access to, over-the-counter medicines and other healthcare products and advice.

The announcement in 2003 also committed the Government to review the progress made by these reforms in mid-2006 and to publish the findings.

I have decided the review should go ahead as promised. The terms of reference are:

To review and to report: progress in implementing the balanced package of reform measures introduced in England from April 2005 on the control of entry system for NHS pharmaceutical services;

their effect on access to and the choice of, NHS pharmaceutical services for patients, taking account of the new contractual framework in place since April 2005;

their impact for consumers and the retail pharmacy market; the extent to which the operation of the new regulatory system is proportionate to the aims and objectives of the reforms; and to publish the findings.

The review will be led by Department of Health officials in conjunction with colleagues in the NHS and other Government Departments.

The methodology will comprise:

a quantitative analysis of NHS Primary Care Trust (PCT) and other centrally sourced statistical data on community pharmacies, their applications to provide NHS services to PCTs, PCT decisions and appeals. This will also explore what discernible effect the reforms have had on pharmacy services in rural and socially deprived areas. It will be augmented as necessary by follow-up with PCTs;

as a sub-set of this quantitative analysis, a further review of applications to PCTs and their decisions on pharmacies exempted since April 2005 from the control of entry requirements and their provision of NHS services;

comparative analysis of summary historical data on NHS dispensing by community pharmacies, openings and closures, distances between pharmacies and, where available, opening hours;

taking account of the new contractual framework, a review of the extent of the reforms' economic impact to date, including discernible effects on services and their provision, competition, market structure, concentration and, if time series data are available for these, medicines pricing strategies;

a qualitative review of the reforms. Building on recent patient satisfaction consultations and surveys, the Department will consult and invite PCTs, contractors, patients and consumer groups, health professionals and other interested parties to feed back views on the operation of the reformed procedures. This will examine: what impact there has been on access to services, particularly for those without transport or in more socially deprived areas; the quality of the services provided by community pharmacies following these reforms; how innovative they are and developments respondents may wish to see in future;

a series of public regional "listening" events to complement the consultation and further meetings with representative bodies and other organisations as required to consider the impact of the reforms in more detail.

I intend the report should be completed and published by the end of October 2006.

Further details of the consultation, which begins on Tuesday 13 June and ends on Tuesday 12 September are available on the Department of Health’s website at Industry/NHSPharmaceuticalRegulations/fs/en.

Copies of the consultation document have been placed in the Library.