We intend to announce details of the pharmacy access scheme, including funding, as part of a wider announcement on community pharmacy in 2016-17 and beyond.
Pharmacies play an important role in our community healthcare system. An accessible pharmacy is particularly important for those with mobility issues and for those from communities with a greater propensity to experience health inequalities. However, the planned changes to pharmacy funding risk closing the pharmacies that serve these groups. Will the Minister give me a direct assurance that the pharmacy access scheme will be properly organised and that no pharmacies serving those vulnerable groups will close because of changes in funding?
The hon. Gentleman is right to praise the role pharmacies play and right to identify that we must do all we can to ensure that those who are most vulnerable retain the excellent access they currently have. The national formula on access proposal will be used to identify those pharmacies that are most geographically important for patient access, taking into account isolation criteria based on travel times and distances, and population sizes and needs. Both deprivation and isolation will be covered in the access formula.
Given that the access scheme could potentially alter the situation for community pharmacies, will the Minister consider more money than was originally proposed for community pharmacy budgets to stop any shock from the cuts we are expecting later this financial year?
There are no changes to the funding issues announced when the review of pharmacies started on 15 December. As my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State said, we are hoping to make an announcement on pharmacy when we can. I am aware that pharmacy is waiting for that.