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Petitions

Volume 738: debated on Monday 16 October 2023

Petitions

Monday 16 October 2023

Observations

Health and Social Care

Funding for local pharmacies

The petition of residents of the United Kingdom,

Declares that the issue of the underfunding of local pharmacies is threatening their ability to continue to serve communities and areas such as Bradford South; notes that pharmacies are vital as points of access for face-to-face healthcare advice and NHS support; and further declares that access to pharmacies is vital for preventing excess pressure on GPs and hospitals across the country.

The petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urge the Government to support pharmacies as they seek to recover from the pandemic, ensuring that they can continue to provide a high standard of care to patients within the community.

And the petitioners remain, etc.—[Presented by Judith Cummins, Official Report, 6 September 2023; Vol. 737, c. 510 .]

[P002850]

Observations from The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health and Social Care (Neil OBrien):

The community pharmacy contractual framework (CPCF) 2019-24 five-year deal, agreed between the Department, NHS England and Community Pharmacy England, commits £2.592 billion every year to the sector. In September 2022 we announced a further one-off investment in the sector of £100 million across the 2022-23 and 2023-24 financial years. In May this year, as part of our delivery plan for recovering access to primary care, we announced a further investment of up to £645 million over two years to introduce a Pharmacy First service for seven common conditions and to expand the existing pharmacy contraception and blood pressure check services. In addition, pharmacies are making a growing contribution to our flu and covid-19 vaccine programmes and can supplement CPCF income by participating in these programmes.

The current five-year deal is coming to an end at the end of this financial year and we will consider what comes next for pharmacy. As part of this planning, NHS England has committed to commissioning an economic study to better understand the cost of delivering pharmaceutical services. That study will feed into any future funding decisions on community pharmacy.

Access to pharmacies remains good, with 80% of the population in England living within a 20-minute walk of a pharmacy. There are still more pharmacies now than in 2010, and twice as many pharmacies in the most deprived areas.

Access to pharmaceutical services in local areas is assessed by local authority health and wellbeing boards (HWBs). Every three years, HWBs are required to produce and publish pharmaceutical needs assessments (PNAs). The PNA outlines services available and assesses whether pharmaceutical services across the HWB area both meet the needs of the population and are in the correct locations to support the residents of the HWB area. The latest PNA for Bradford was published in October 2022 and did not identify any gaps in respect of the current or future needs of the population in any of the localities across the Bradford district that could not be met by existing providers. PNAs are used as the basis for informing decisions when applications for new pharmacies are received and for the commissioning of new services within community pharmacies.

Levelling Up, Housing and Communities

West Midlands Combined Authority

The petition of residents of Warwick and Leamington,

Declares that Warwickshire residents do not wish to join the West Midlands Combined Authority; further declares that that any discussions held between the West Midlands Combined Authority and Warwickshire County Council should be held openly and transparently; and that a referendum is held so the public can have their say on any proposed plans.

The petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the Government to ensure that Warwickshire County Council is not absorbed into the West Midlands Combined Authority.

And the petitioners remain, etc.—[Presented by Matt Western, Official Report, 6 September 2023; Vol. 737, c. 510 .]

[P002845]

Observations from the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (Lee Rowley):

The Government are committed to levelling up across the country to make us more prosperous and more united by tackling the regional and local inequalities that unfairly hold back communities and to encourage private sector investment right across the UK.

In our “Levelling Up” White Paper, our policy is clearly stated:

“Levelling up will only be successful if local actors are empowered to develop solutions that work for their communities”,

and

“Levelling up requires effective and coherent local institutions with responsibilities defined across appropriate strategic geographies.”

The White Paper goes on to say that devolution proposals should be agreed over a sensible functional economic area and or whole county geographies, so that local leaders are empowered to make more of the decisions that shape their area.

Earlier this year, Warwickshire County Council’s cabinet undertook to explore the opportunity of seeking full constituent member status of the West Midlands Combined Authority. The council subsequently announced in July their decision not to pursue at this time their application.

There is a statutory, locally led application process that areas seeking to join a combined authority area have to follow. This requires the authority or authorities to present their proposals and evidence base setting out what and how the proposals would be expected to improve the exercise of functions across the area, to secure local views through a public consultation, and then present this material to the Secretary of State for him to make a decision, based on the statutory tests, on whether or not to proceed with the necessary implementing secondary legislation, subject to local consents and parliamentary approval.

If Warwickshire decides to pursue this in future, it will need to the follow the statutory process I outlined above, including undertaking a public consultation, following which it may submit its proposals to Government. The Government would carefully consider any such proposals as statute provides. No decisions have been taken by Government.

Transport

Levenshulme Station and Gorton Station ticket office closures

The petition of residents of the constituency of Manchester Gorton,

Declares that Levenshulme Station and Gorton Station’s ticket offices are vital for residents of the area; notes that by closing these ticket offices, vital jobs will be lost; further declares that ticket offices are helpful for the older population and those with disabilities, who may have difficulty using ticket machines; further declares that this loss may prevent people from wanting to use trains in the future.

The petitioners therefore urge the House of Commons to urge the Government to prevent the closure of Levenshulme Station and Gorton Stations’ ticket offices.

And the petitioners remain, etc.—[Presented by Afzal Khan, Official Report, 12 September 2023; Vol. 737, c. 877 .]

[P002853]

Observations from the Minister of State, Department for Transport (Huw Merriman):

Together with the rail industry, I want to improve and modernise the experience for passengers by moving staff out from behind the ticket office screens to provide more help and advice in customer-focused roles. I have been clear that no currently staffed station should be unstaffed as a result of industry changes, and operators should ensure that staff are well located to meet passenger needs in future. This includes ensuring that staff are available to assist those who need additional support, do not wish to use digital tickets or do not have access to smartphones or the internet.

The public consultation on proposed ticket office changes has now closed. The independent passenger bodies, Transport Focus and London TravelWatch, are engaging with train operators on the basis of the consultation responses they have received and the criteria they have set out. I expect train operators, including Northern, which manages several stations in the Greater Manchester area, to work collaboratively with the passenger bodies in the coming weeks, to listen to the concerns raised and to refine their proposals accordingly.

When proposing major changes to ticket office opening hours, including closures, train operators are required to take into account the adequacy of the proposed alternatives in relation to the needs of all passengers, including those who are disabled, and to include this in the notice of the proposal sent to other operators and passenger groups. When consulting, operators should also have clearly considered other equality-related needs. Operators prepared equality impact assessments, and these were made available on their websites during the consultation period.

I have listened and will continue to listen to the views of passengers and accessibility stakeholders. I have held two roundtable discussions with industry, attended by accessibility and passenger representatives. Over 20 different organisations have been represented at these sessions. My Department will also continue to engage with the Disabled Persons Transport Advisory Committee to ensure that any impact on passengers is considered.

Railway station ticket offices

The petition of residents of the United Kingdom,

Declares that rail firms should cancel their current plans to close the majority of the remaining 1,007 ticket offices across England; further that these offices and their staff provide vital services to ensure the accessibility of train services for all passengers; and further notes that these staff are crucial for disabled and elderly customers and visitors to the area.

The petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urge the Government to take into account the concerns of the petitioners and take immediate action to drop plans to shut railway station ticket offices.

And the petitioners remain, etc.—[Presented by Tim Farron, Official Report, 11 September 2023; Vol. 737, c. 735 .]

[P002851]

Observations from the Minister of State, Department for Transport (Huw Merriman):

Together with the rail industry, I want to improve and modernise the experience for passengers by moving staff out from behind the ticket office screens to provide more help and advice in customer-focused roles. I have been clear that no currently staffed station should be unstaffed as a result of industry changes, and operators should ensure that staff are well located to meet passenger needs in future.

The public consultation on proposed ticket office changes has now closed. The independent passenger bodies, Transport Focus and London TravelWatch, are engaging with train operators on the basis of the consultation responses they have received and the criteria they have set out. I expect train operators to work collaboratively with the passenger bodies in the coming weeks, to listen to the concerns raised and to refine their proposals accordingly.

When proposing major changes to ticket office opening hours, including closures, train operators are required to take into account the adequacy of the proposed alternatives in relation to the needs of all passengers, including those who are disabled, and to include this in the notice of the proposal sent to other operators and passenger groups. When consulting, operators should also have clearly considered other equality-related needs. Operators prepared equality impact assessments, and these were made available on their websites during the consultation period.

I have listened and will continue to listen to the views of passengers and accessibility stakeholders. I have held two roundtable discussions with industry, attended by accessibility and passenger representatives. Over 20 different organisations have been represented at these sessions. We also continue to engage with the Disabled Persons Transport Advisory Committee to ensure that any impact on passengers is considered.

Reddish North station ticket office closures

The petition of residents of the constituency of Denton and Reddish,

Declares that Reddish North’s ticket offices are vital for residents of the area; notes that by closing this ticket office, vital jobs will be lost; further declares that ticket offices are helpful for vulnerable customers and those who may have difficulty using ticket machines; further declares that this loss may prevent people from wanting to use trains in the future.

The petitioners therefore request the House of Commons to urge the Government to prevent the closure of Reddish North ticket office.

And the petitioners remain, etc.—[Presented by Andrew Gwynne, Official Report, 12 September 2023; Vol. 737, c. 878 .]

[P002855]

Observations from the Minister of State, Department for Transport (Huw Merriman):

Together with the rail industry, I want to improve and modernise the experience for passengers by moving staff out from behind the ticket office screens to provide more help and advice in customer-focused roles. I have been clear that no currently staffed station should be unstaffed as a result of industry changes, and operators should ensure that staff are well located to meet passenger needs in future. This includes ensuring that staff are available to assist those who need additional support, do not wish to use digital tickets or do not have access to smartphones or the internet.

The public consultation on proposed ticket office changes has now closed. The independent passenger bodies, Transport Focus and London TravelWatch, are engaging with train operators on the basis of the consultation responses they have received and the criteria they have set out. I expect train operators, including Northern, which manages several stations in the Greater Manchester area, to work collaboratively with the passenger bodies in the coming weeks, to listen to the concerns raised and to refine their proposals accordingly.

When proposing major changes to ticket office opening hours, including closures, train operators are required to take into account the adequacy of the proposed alternatives in relation to the needs of all passengers, including those who are disabled, and to include this in the notice of the proposal sent to other operators and passenger groups. When consulting, operators should also have clearly considered other equality-related needs. Operators prepared equality impact assessments, and these were made available on their websites during the consultation period.

I have listened and will continue to listen to the views of passengers and accessibility stakeholders. I have held two roundtable discussions with industry, attended by accessibility and passenger representatives. Over 20 different organisations have been represented at these sessions. My Department will also continue to engage with the Disabled Persons Transport Advisory Committee to ensure that any impact on passengers is considered.