Shadow health secretary ‘alarmed’ by LloydsPharmacy closures
Shadow health secretary Wes Streeting has said he believes Government “could do a lot more” with pharmacies and that he is “alarmed” by reports of national pharmacy chains exiting branches.
In a speech at the King’s Fund this morning (April 21), Mr Streeting emphasised the need to “reduce the burden” on GP surgeries, commenting: “Community Pharmacy has got a really big role to play. I think lots of people in our country still think the person behind the counter is someone who's trained just to dispense medicines, rather than someone who is actually highly qualified and trained to do a whole range of things.
“We’re seeing some progress already in things like prescribing but I think we could do a lot more.
“Indeed, I'm really alarmed by some of the headlines we've seen about major chains like Lloyd's pulling out rather than expanding, so I think we’ve got to grip that challenge.”
LloydsPharmacy announced earlier this year that it was pulling out of all its Sainsbury’s branches, with Pharmacy Network News revealing shortly after this that the company had put a significant number of stores up for sale across Britain.
Mr Streeting also said patients should “be able to go to their local pharmacy to receive simple things that they currently get at GP surgeries like vaccinations free at the point of use”.
Commenting on Mr Streeting’s speech, Nick Thayer of the Community Chemists’ Association said: "We are pleased to see the Shadow Health Secretary recognise the enhanced role that pharmacies should play in primary care reform.
“Mr Streeting wants to see care brought closer to people’s homes and more front doors into the NHS. With 89.2 per cent of the population located within a 20-minute walk of a pharmacy, pharmacies do just that. They are essential to realising his vision of a ‘neighbourhood health service’.
“Pharmacies could free up over 42 million GP appointments annually, including 10m vaccination appointments.
“Urgent same-day appointments for minor conditions in pharmacies will immediately benefit patients by increasing GP access. The first step is for the Government to immediately commission a fully-funded Pharmacy First service in England.
“With a 30 per cent real-terms cut in funding and 720 pharmacies permanently closing since 2015, pharmacy desperately needs a funding injection. We cannot let the sector whither and decline, otherwise patient care, especially for those in the most deprived communities, will suffer.”