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NHS: Pharmaceutical Services

Volume 694: debated on Wednesday 25 July 2007

My right honourable friend the Minister of State, Department of Health (Dawn Primarolo), has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

My right honourable friend the former Minister of State (Andy Burnham) announced the outcome of a departmental review of the progress made in reforming market entry arrangements for community pharmacies in England (Official Report, Commons, col. 19WS). This report found that, while still early days, those reforms had had a modest albeit uneven impact and identified a number of concerns.

To address these, my right honourable friend therefore announced a review of National Health Services pharmaceutical contractual arrangements. This would meet the commitment 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. He appointed Anne Galbraith, former chair of the Prescription Pricing Authority, to lead the review.

Anne presented her report to Ministers in the spring. We have been considering and continue to consider Anne’s findings and conclusions carefully. The Pharmacy All-Party Group also recently completed its own inquiry into pharmacy services, published on 26 June at www.appg.org.uk/inquiry.htm.

I believe that it is important that we reflect further on these reports in the context of wider developments that are taking place in the NHS and in particular the wide-ranging review that my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Health (Alan Johnson) announced to the House on 4 July (Official Report, Commons, col. 962).

We have therefore decided to defer responding formally to Anne’s review until later this autumn. We will come forward with a White Paper, which will set out our future proposals for developing pharmacy services and any legislative reform necessary. We remain committed to pharmacy, its place in the NHS and its role in delivering quality services to patients and consumers.

In advance of this, we are launching today a departmental consultation on proposals to transfer to primary care trust allocations residual money still held centrally at the department to support NHS pharmaceutical services.

This money, known as the “global sum”, covers a range of fees and allowances that are payable to community pharmacies under the national contractual framework for the provision of dispensing and other essential pharmaceutical services. Central funding also similarly pays appliance contractors, who supply patients with items such as stoma and incontinence care aids.

This proposal, subject to parliamentary approval, would not come into force earlier than April 2009. It would bring this funding stream into line with other funding, which already pays pharmaceutical contractors for the costs of the drugs and appliances that they dispense, and align funding systems with those of other primary care professionals such as general practitioners and dentists.

Although this is a small change to the legislation, it is important that the NHS and other organisations are given the opportunity to consider it in full prior to our introducing the necessary legislation.

The consultation document has been placed in the Library and copies are available to honourable members from the Vote Office. It is also available on the department’s website at: www.dh.gov.uk/en/Consultations /Liveconsultations/index.htm.

Consultation will end on 16 October 2007. We look forward to hearing the results. Subject to the outcome of this consultation, we expect to include these proposals in the forthcoming Health and Social Care Bill.