During a House of Commons debate on Monday evening, Pharmacy Minister Jo Churchill reassured MPs that the government would invest in community pharmacies and avoid widespread closures.
She drew attention to a pledge made earlier that day to the NPA virtual conference by the Health Secretary that large-scale closures would “not happen on my watch”.
Thanking community pharmacy teams for their work during the pandemic, she said:
“They’ve stepped up, innovated and shown great resilience.”
The debate was opened by backbench Conservative MP for the Isle of Wight, Bob Seely, who warned that it would be a “national shame” if pharmacies were forced to close having stayed open to serve the public during the COVID-19 crisis. Funding to cover the additional costs incurred by pharmacies, such as extra staffing, needs to be more than “a sticking plaster”, he said.
Conservative Paul Bristow and Labour’s Holly Walker-Lynch also spoke warmly about the support pharmacies in their constituencies have given on the health service frontline during the coronavirus pandemic.
The Minister reminded MPs that the government is currently in negotiations with PSNC on pharmacy funding and also emphasised that pharmacies will be key to scaling up the flu vaccination programme this coming autumn and winter.
National Pharmacy Association chief executive, Mark Lyonette, said:
“It’s good that public commitments have been made both to our members and to MPs that pharmacies will be supported to stay open and expand services. We believe that Ministers are sincere in their stated ambition to make pharmacies the first port of call for healthcare, but the sector urgently needs further investment to underpin viability, change and improvement.”