Community pharmacy has been discussed in Parliament for the first time in 2017.

Jeremy Hunt criticised ‘cluster’ pharmacies – the Government’s term for several pharmacies located within a short distance of one another - when defending the government’s decision to cut the sector’s funding in a House of Commons debate about mental health and NHS performance on 9 January.

The health secreatry said: “Some 40% of pharmacies are clustered in groups of three or more, and it does not make sense for the NHS to continue to subsidise pharmacies that are very close to other pharmacies.”

“Our reforms are designed to ensure, however, that where there is only one local pharmacy that people can access, that pharmacy is protected,” he added.

Opposition to cuts

Hunt’s statement was in response to a question from Labour MP, Michael Dugher of Barnsley East, who asked about the Government’s decision to implement the cuts “in the face of huge opposition”.

Dugher asked: “Are the Government in danger of making an appalling crisis in the NHS even worse?”

He cited the evidence that one in five people who would usually see a pharmacist for medical advice say that they will make a GP appointment if their local pharmacist is closed, noting that the rate is four in five in deprived areas. There is a risk also, he said, that many of those people in desperation will turn up at the local hospital.

During the debate, Dr Philippa Whitford, SNP member for Central Ayrshire, discussed the problems faced by the NHS in Scotland. She said: “We can use community pharmacies and GPs, and try to bring the NHS back together”.

Hunt replied: “When it comes to what happens in Scotland and England, I think that Scotland has gone further than England in the use of community pharmacy, which is to be commended”, however, he said, “England has gone further in our plans to reform and increase investment into general practice.”