Pharmacy minister David Mowat  praised community pharmacies for continuing to ‘play an integral role’ in the NHS, despite government-imposed funding cuts in England.

On 1 March, Shadow Minister for Justice, Yasmin Qureshi questioned Mowat on his assessment of the effect of changes to community pharmacy budgets on the NHS in winter 2016/17.

Mowat replied that community pharmacy is ‘continuing to play an integral role in the National Health Service this winter’ and referenced the flu vaccine service, the Stay Well This Winter campaign, and Urgent Medicine Supply Service as examples.

‘As part of the reforms to community pharmacy announced on 20 October 2016, the Government is increasing its role in reducing pressure on other parts of the system,’ Mowat said.

According to PSNC figures, 814,534 flu vaccines have been administered by pharmacy teams during 2015/16, an increase on the previous year.

‘Building on last year’s successful introduction of the National Influenza Adult Vaccination Service delivered through community pharmacies, pharmacists are again providing flu vaccinations to eligible patients in this flu season,’ he said.

‘For example, this season’s Stay Well This Winter campaign points people to visit their pharmacist at the earliest signs of feeling unwell, and before their condition gets more serious, to prevent them ending up at their general practice or emergency care department.'

He also referenced the urgent medicine supply service, which reduces the burden on NHS 111, and other services to arrange urgent prescriptions for patients.

‘Under this service, those who need urgent repeat medicines are referred by NHS 111 directly to community pharmacies, where appropriate, relieving pressure on urgent and emergency care services by shifting this demand from general practitioner out of hours providers.

'This is being funded by the new Pharmacy Integration Fund and will be evaluated to inform future commissioning decisions,’ the minister said.