With 1 in 4 of Sutton’s pharmacies under threat of closure from Conservative Government cuts, Carshalton and Wallington MP Tom Brake raised an urgent question in Parliament yesterday to the The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health (David Mowat).
The closures, which have been called “nothing more than a backdoor health cut” by Brake are due to be made in December as part of the Government’s plans to ‘reform’ the community pharmacy sector, but will in fact disproportionately hurt smaller and independent pharmacies.
Speaking in the House, Tom asked the Minister:
“The Minister may not know how many pharmacies are going to close, but Reena Barai, an award-winning community pharmacist in my constituency, estimates that one out of four pharmacies in the London borough of Sutton, which is 11 pharmacies in total, will be closed. These will predominantly be the independents—not Boots or Superdrug. Why does the Minister think that, for years, successive Governments have encouraged people to visit their pharmacies for certain conditions or tests, instead of GP surgeries and A&E? Was it not because it was better for their health and cheaper?”
The reply from the Minister was as follows:
“I can only repeat that we value, and can see the value, in community pharmacies. We do not believe that any reductions will be skewed towards the independent sector; nor do we believe that the sector’s position overrides our duty to look at clustering and to make sure that the money we spend in this sector—£2.8 billion—is spent most effectively and cannot be spent better on other parts of the NHS.”
The Conservative Government has faced opposition from across the House and within their own party on these proposals, and many MPs worry that pharmacy closures will pile extra pressure on GP practices and hospitals.
“Pharmacies offer a huge range of services that take pressure off our already overburdened GP practices and A&Es. We must do our utmost to protect local pharmacies and show the level of support they have from vulnerable patients. We must force the Conservative Government to u-turn on these plans and safe our pharmacies.”
To learn more about Tom’s campaign to save local pharmacies or to sign his petition, visit http://www.tombrake.co.uk/pharmacies