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Pharmacy in England

Volume 494: debated on Thursday 18 June 2009

Chapter 5 of our pharmacy White Paper, “Pharmacy in England: Building on strengths—delivering the future” addressed the need to raise awareness of the many and varied services and benefits offered by pharmacies and pharmacists.

In the light of further public research, we have prepared a communications programme to support the delivery of key messages to patients, public, the NHS and other stakeholders. Summary copies of the research have today been placed in the Library of the House, are available to hon. Members from the Vote Office and can be found at:

www.dh.gov.uk/en/Publicationsandstatistics/Publications/PublicationsPolicyAndGuidance/DH_083815

This programme represents the first step in improving awareness and understanding of the roles of pharmacy in providing services. This is an important but necessary prelude to expanding the range of clinical services we want to see available as outlined in the White Paper.

We have identified key target audiences for this programme with a particular focus on people with long-term conditions and those affected by health inequalities. The next phase will turn this information into a campaign plan. We will work with key pharmacy stakeholders to develop this campaign plan. It will be supported by further research this summer among the pharmacist profession to identify their preparedness and ability to deliver the range and quality of services that patients and public should expect in future.

We consulted on a number of structural and legislative changes affecting community pharmacy last autumn. Our proposals for reforming the current primary legislation are contained in the Health Bill published in January and now before the Commons.

As part of this work, I am today announcing the formation of a regulatory advisory group to help implement these changes, subject to parliamentary approval of our provisions in the Bill.

I have asked Mr Paul Burns to lead and chair this group. Mr Burns is leaving his current post of Chief Officer of the NHS Litigation Authority Appeal Unit at the end of this month. He has an unrivalled wealth of experience of NHS pharmacy legislation. He will be inviting key organisations and stakeholders to join him in formulating the detailed regulations needed to bring our reform proposals to reality.

The terms of reference for this important work are:

“Subject to parliamentary approval of proposals in the Health Bill 2009, to consider and advise on, and to help the Department devise, regulations to implement a duty on NHS primary care trusts to develop and to publish pharmaceutical needs assessments and on subsequent regulations required to use such assessments as the basis for determining the provision of NHS pharmaceutical services”.

We expect the group to complete its programme by spring 2011.

Pending this longer-term reform, I have considered whether or not further changes are needed to the current arrangements for pharmacies prepared to provide NHS services for at least 100 hours per week. We also consulted on this last autumn. I fully recognise the strength of feeling this issue has generated. While reforms now may have potential benefits, I am not persuaded, after full consideration, that there should be further changes to the current arrangements for what will be a relatively short interim period before new permanent arrangements are in place.

In the absence of firm evidence that such pharmacies have had serious adverse impacts on the provision of NHS services locally, and that some of the earlier problems reported to us are settling down, I have concluded that these current arrangements should continue pending our longer-term strategic vision for NHS services to be commissioned against local needs. I consider this is the right path to follow.

Once the new arrangements are in place, applications, including those offering extended hours, will be determined against those assessments. Existing pharmacies currently opening at least 100 hours per week who want to reduce their hours will in due course be able to apply to the PCT for determinations based against those assessments. Otherwise, they will have to maintain their commitment to open for at least 100 hours per week.

This Government remain determined to transform the delivery of pharmaceutical services. By developing community pharmacists’ clinical role and expanding the range of services they offer, we want to ensure that people have a wider choice of, and greater access to modern, effective, frontline health care. I believe we are on course to achieve that.