Dispensing medication at a loss is like ‘handing out a £5 note’ with every prescription, Liberal Democrat MP Sarah Dyke has suggested while highlighting the plight of community pharmacies.

Speaking to The Pharmacist at the Fight4Pharmacies parliamentary event this week, the MP for Somerton and Frome described community pharmacies as an ‘absolutely vital and essential part’ of local services, particularly in rural areas like her Somerset constituency.

Ms Dyke noted that ‘a number’ of community pharmacies were closing due to the pressure they were facing.

But she suggested that community pharmacies could play an ‘incredible’ opportunity in alleviating pressure on other overstretched parts of the NHS.

‘We've got people within pharmacies that I think should be given more opportunity; if they’re properly qualified, they should be able to prescribe,’ she said.

And she said that while Pharmacy First was ‘welcome’, she said ‘a long-term strategy, a government review’, and ‘more training places’ for pharmacists were needed.

‘We need to incentivise pharmacists, as well,’ she added.

‘I was talking to a local pharmacist in my neck of the woods, Bruton Pharmacy, and they spend an awful lot of time going online in the evening after work hours trying to find the cheapest medication,’ she said.

‘They described it to me as almost handing out a £5 note with every prescription, which I just think is absolutely ridiculous, because these are vital community frontline services.’

And she highlighted how pharmacies are funding local prescription delivery services – which she said were much needed in rural areas – ‘out of their own pockets’.

‘In Somerset, we've got an ageing population, we live in a very rural area. And so people are obviously very, very keen to ensure their medication is delivered to them – what an excellent service that is. But we should be incentivising our pharmacists to be able to run that kind of service,’ Ms Dyke told The Pharmacist.

‘And the fact that our pharmacists are almost having to pay for the medication, and then hand out – to me, something is not adding up here,’ she said.

Ms Dyke added: ‘Although I think that the Pharmacy First element will help alleviate pressure on the NHS, I still don't think it's going to be enough of an incentive for pharmacists going forward.’

And she suggested that the incoming increase in the national living wage could ‘potentially wipe out any benefit that pharmacists may or may have at the moment’.

‘These are critical frontline services. Particularly in rural areas – our high streets and our market towns – they’re absolutely vital to that whole connectivity that we have within our community,’ she said.

The Liberal Democrat MP told The Pharmacist that she thought the issue of pharmacy closures needed to be looked at ‘very sensibly’.

She said that she ‘wouldn’t necessarily agree with’ reallocating money from within existing NHS budgets to community pharmacy, but added: ‘We do need to look at funding.’

‘There needs to be a review. And I think we've got to make sure that we can incentivise our pharmacists going forward,’ she added.

‘There's various mechanisms that the Liberal Democrats are proposing in that we're looking at taking the some of the tax cuts from the big banks, for example, to be able to move into this kind of sphere.’