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Pharmacy Services

Volume 474: debated on Thursday 3 April 2008

We are today laying before Parliament the Government’s White Paper, “Pharmacy in England—Building on Strengths, Delivering the Future” (Cm 7341). This fulfils an undertaking I gave to the House on 24 July 2007. It also meets the commitment the Government gave in paragraph 4.47 of “Our Health, Our Care, Our Say” to develop pharmaceutical contractual arrangements in line with the wider ambitions of that White Paper.

This White Paper sets out our future proposals for developing pharmaceutical services. It demonstrates the Government’s continued commitment to pharmacy, its place in the NHS and its role as a leading clinical profession in delivering better access to high quality services to patients and consumers.

It sets out how pharmacists will work to complement general practitioners in promoting health, preventing sickness and providing care that is more personal and responsive to individual needs. Pharmacists already play a vital role for local communities in dispensing medicines, and providing services such as supporting people who want to give up smoking. This extended role will see more pharmacists being able to prescribe for and deal with minor ailments on the national health service, as well as supporting those with long-term conditions and preventing illnesses through additional screening and advice.

This will enable pharmacies, many of which already open out of hours to provide increased access to the right medicines and the right care, in the right way—more personal and more responsive to individual needs.

Under the new proposals, pharmacies will:

become “healthy living” centres promoting health and well-being and helping people to take better care of themselves;

be able to prescribe certain common medicines and be the first port of call for minor ailments—saving every GP up to the equivalent of one hour per day or up to 57 million GP consultations a year;

provide support for people with long-term conditions—such as high blood pressure or asthma—50 per cent. of whom may not take their medicines as intended—especially those starting out on a new course of treatment;

be able to screen for vascular disease and certain sexually transmitted infections, such as chlamydia;

work much closer with hospitals to provide safe, seamless care; and

play a bigger role in vaccination programmes.

To support this important programme of work, the Department will appoint two new pharmacist clinical directors later this year who will champion change in hospitals and in the community.

The White Paper also provides the Government’s response to a review of national health services pharmaceutical contractual arrangements led by Anne Galbraith, former Chair of the Prescription Pricing Authority. Her report, “Review of NHS pharmaceutical contractual arrangements”, which was completed last year, has been placed in the Library and copies are available to hon. Members from the Vote Office. I am most grateful to Mrs Galbraith for the speed and efficiency in which she completed her report and her insights, which have helped shape our thinking as set out in this White Paper.

We have also taken account of the work of the All Party Pharmacy Group, which published its report “The Future of Pharmacy” in June last year.

The Government have concluded that a number of structural changes are needed—in terms of reforms which will enable appropriate action to be taken in the small minority of cases where performance is not meeting accepted standards and to shift funding arrangements so that rewards are based on the quality, not the quantity, of the services provided.

We set out proposals to reform 100-hour a week pharmacies. We want the NHS to have adequate levers which ensure such pharmacies better meet local needs.

The White Paper also considers the position of dispensing doctors and appliance contractors—with proposals to allow dispensing doctors to sell over-the-counter medicines and for appliance contractors to meet professional and high quality standards.

We will proceed quickly with the next stages to support implementation of the actions set out here. We are holding a series of events around the country beginning on 1 May 2008, to hear views from the public, from the NHS and from the professions. We will then consult fully later this summer on some of the key proposals for structural reform needed. That consultation will take full account of the final “NHS Next Stage Review” report to be published in due course.