A patient of a community pharmacy in Sutton has written to their local MP calling for a parliamentary debate on the ‘further funding and retention’ of independent pharmacies.

The letter, sent last week to Elliot Colborn, Conservative MP for Carshalton and Wallington, said community pharmacies provide ‘very valuable’ services and without them people ‘may miss medications’.

The patient said they ‘failed to see’ how large chain pharmacies would be able to provide the same tailored service as independent pharmacies and called on the Government to ‘check its funding priorities’.

‘Local pharmacies know their regular customers very well and are so valuable in checking on medications and suggesting consulting GPs where they become concerned about dosage, how people take their medications and whether medicines ‘clash’,’ they said.

‘They also provide very helpful support where customers are unsure whether their symptoms require a doctor’s intervention or whether simple remedies from their local pharmacies can help.’

The patient added: ‘I fail to see that very large district pharmacies can keep all these checks going satisfactorily as they would be supplying medicines in bulk without any particular personal interest.’

Reena Barai, the patient’s pharmacist at SG Barai Chemist in Sutton, said: 'This is a great example of patient power, something all community pharmacists should be encouraging. The public has seen first-hand how we’ve supported them throughout this pandemic and their voice is so powerful.

‘MPs need to listen and engage with their constituents and so the more letters like this that they receive the more they take notice of the role of community pharmacy and how valued we are in the local area.’

Expand role of community pharmacy

Last week (19 November), during business questions in the House of Commons, Mr Colburn asked about expanding the role of English pharmacies and ensuring the sector had enough funding.

He said: ‘Pharmacists tell me they are ready to do so much more than they currently can provide, including providing covid-19 vaccines.

‘So can we have a debate about expanding the role of community pharmacy and also expanding the work they currently do.’

In response, Jacob-Rees Moggs, leader of the House of Commons, thanked community pharmacies for the work they had done throughout the pandemic but did not mention any additional funding.

‘Pharmacies have shown themselves to be the bedrock of local communities this year, they’re doors have remained open and the pharmacists within are welcoming and wise,’ he said.

‘They have been a model of public service and I would like to commend community pharmacies for the essential work throughout the pandemic.

He added: ‘The drive to vaccinate the nation will require a great national effort, and he [Colborn] makes an important point about the role of pharmacists in distributing and administering the vaccine, he is absolutely right in raising this and I will pass it on to the secretary of state.’

Covid costs

This comes after PSNC announced it has rejected an initial funding offer made by the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) to deal with the financial impact of Covid-19 on community pharmacy contractors.

Instead, the negotiating body has suggested that the Government write off the £370m in advance payments made to the sector earlier this year to help with Covid-related costs.

In September, an analysis conducted by Ernst and Young (EY) revealed that almost three-quarters of independent pharmacies in England could be forced to close by 2024 if current contractual arrangements remain unchanged.