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Volume 475: debated on Thursday 8 May 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) what assessment he has made of the contribution independent pharmacies make to the provision of access to primary health care; and if he will make a statement;. (203576)

(2) what assessment he has made of the likely effects of polyclinics on independent pharmacies.

As at 31 March 2007, of nearly 11,000 pharmacies in England and Wales, 41 per cent. were classified as independent, which we define as those in chains of five or fewer outlets.They as well as other community pharmacies are well placed to play an important part in improving access to primary health care. Our White Paper “Pharmacy in England—Building on strengths, delivering the future” published last month sets out a comprehensive development programme for them to provide an extended range of quality clinical services. These include help for a range of minor ailments, offering screening services and providing support for people newly prescribed medicines for a long-term condition.

Primary care trusts (PCTs) are currently talking to local stakeholders, including patients and clinicians, to consider how new general practitioner-led health centre services are best provided to meet local needs and the effect they may have on existing provision. PCTs will continue to ensure there are adequate arrangements in place for patients to access pharmaceutical services.