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Question for Department of Health

UIN 37746, tabled on 20 May 2016

To ask the Secretary of State for Health, what assessment his Department has made of the contribution of community pharmacies to (a) local minor ailments services, (b) needle exchanges and (c) local commissioned services; and what assessment he has made of the potential effect of the closure of such pharmacies on (i) such services, (ii) patient care, (iii) GP practices and (iv) hospitals.

Answered on

25 May 2016

The Department has not made a specific assessment of the contribution of community pharmacies to local minor ailment services, needle and syringe exchange services and other locally commissioned services. However, information available from the Health and Social Care Information Centre shows that during 2014/15, 1,863 community pharmacies were commissioned to provide local minor ailment services and 29 were commissioned to provide needle and syringe exchange services, as National Health Service pharmaceutical services. Clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) and local authorities are, however, able to commission local services and it is very likely that local authorities commission needle and syringe exchange services from community pharmacies and CCGs commission minor ailment services. However, this information is not available nationally.

Community pharmacy is a vital part of the NHS and can play an important role in delivering services such as management of minor ailments locally, needle and syringe exchange services and other locally commissioned services. The Government’s vision is for a more efficient, modern system that will free up pharmacists to spend more time delivering high quality clinical and public health services to the benefit of patients and the public.

In the Spending Review the Government re-affirmed the need for the NHS to deliver £22 billion in efficiency savings by 2020/21 as set out in the NHS’s own plan, the Five Year Forward View. Community pharmacy is a core part of NHS primary care and has an important contribution to make as the NHS rises to these challenges. The Government believes efficiencies can be made without compromising the quality of services or public access to them. Our aim is to ensure that those community pharmacies upon which people depend continue to thrive and so we are consulting on the introduction of a Pharmacy Access Scheme, which will provide more NHS funds to certain pharmacies compared to others, considering factors such as location and the health needs of the local population.

Our proposals are about improving services for patients and the public and securing efficiencies and savings. A consequence may be the closure of some pharmacies but that is not our aim. The community pharmacy proposals for 2016/17 and beyond, on which we have consulted, are being considered in respect to the public sector equality duty, the family test and relevant duties of the Secretary of State under the NHS Act 2006. An impact assessment will be completed to inform final decisions and published in due course.

Local commissioning and funding of services from community pharmacies will be unaffected by these proposals.

NHS England has taken account of the potential impact of a pharmacy minor ailments service on general practitioner services and other parts of the NHS. The findings of the Minor Ailment study (‘MINA’ study), conducted by the University of Aberdeen, in collaboration with NHS Grampian and the University of East Anglia, on behalf of Pharmacy Research UK in 2014, were considered. In addition, evaluations of local minor ailments schemes have continued to inform decision-making about local commissioning of such schemes.