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Community Pharmacies

Volume 704: debated on Tuesday 23 November 2021

The community pharmacy contractual framework outlines a transformational programme of work to integrate community pharmacies into the NHS, delivering more clinical services and making them the first port of call for many minor illnesses. The framework commits £2.5 billion annually to the sector to support that ambition.

That is a welcome response from the Minister, and shows that she and the Department now seem to recognise our pharmacies for their magnificent efforts during the pandemic, providing frontline primary care and delivering and encouraging vaccination. Will she further recognise their expertise and dedication, and push rapidly forward with integrating pharmacies into the delivery of primary care—thus also, of course, easing pressure on GPs and hospitals?

The right hon. Gentleman will find no greater supporters of community pharmacists than this Government. That is why we launched the community pharmacist consultation service, where GPs and NHS 111 can refer patients directly to pharmacy services. We now see pharmacies dealing with minor ailments such as sore throats, coughs and colds, providing the new medicines service and providing public health services such as weight management and stop smoking services. We place on record our thanks to all in community pharmacies.

Community pharmacies in my constituency have played a crucial role during the pandemic, not least in providing vaccines, as at Hughenden Valley. Will my hon. Friend join me in thanking them, as well as the pharmacists working in GP surgeries such as Meadowcroft surgery in Aylesbury, which I visited last week? Their growing role in primary care is an important part of our efforts to improve the health service and ensure that patients get the best possible care.

My hon. Friend makes some excellent points, and I put on record again our thanks to community pharmacists and all community pharmacy teams. During the pandemic, more than 1,500 community pharmacy-led covid vaccination sites have been set up, delivering 15 million covid vaccinations so far, and this winter more than 3.8 million flu vaccines have been delivered through community pharmacies, which shows that they are leading the way in primary care.

The role of community pharmacies across Angus and Scotland during the pandemic cannot be underestimated. The way they were able to alleviate pressure on clinical services and the wider NHS must be noted. That is why the Scottish Government have introduced their NHS Pharmacy First Scotland service, backed by £7.5 million last year and going up to £10 million. Can the Minister assure me that the lessons we have learned in Scotland are accepted by Whitehall, and would she like to come to see the lessons we have learned in Scotland? I would be happy to accompany her.

As I have said, this Government are leading the way in England in the way community pharmacies are transforming services in primary care. That is why we have the new medicines service, where patients with conditions such as asthma and high blood pressure or who are on blood-thinning medication are able to go and see their pharmacist as a first port of call in managing their medication. We will be expanding those services and are in discussion with community pharmacists about how we take that forward.