Pharmacy bodies have paid tribute to Winchester MP Steve Brine after he stepped down from his pharmacy minister role over Brexit.
Mr Brine resigned as Parliamentary under secretary of state at the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) yesterday (25 March) in order to vote against the Government on Brexit.
In a letter to the Prime Minister posted on his website, Mr Brine – who had served in the post since June 2017 – said he felt compelled to do ‘the honourable thing’ and step down so he could back what is known as the Letwin Amendment in the Commons.
The amendment, which passed with 329 votes to 302, means that MPs have effectively taken control of the Brexit process and will schedule a number of ‘indicative votes’ on a variety of withdrawal options to be voted on in the Commons on Wednesday (27 March).
PSNC: Brine was ‘central’ to constructive relationship with Government
The Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) paid tribute to Mr Brine for playing a ‘central’ role in helping to smooth over the negotiator’s relationship with the Government. Relations between the two took a battering during a long-running legal dispute over the DHSC’s cuts to community pharmacy funding in 2016.
PSNC chief executive Simon Dukes said: ‘Over the past year, we have made considerable progress in rebuilding a constructive working relationship with Government, and as Minister, Steve Brine had been central to that.
‘He regularly expressed his support for community pharmacy in Parliamentary statements and beyond, and we look forward to continuing to work with him as an MP on pharmacy and public health matters.’
Mr Dukes added that PSNC will begin the ‘urgent task’ of building a collaborative relationship with Mr Brine’s successor as soon as they are appointed, however it is ‘unclear’ when this will be due to the ‘extraordinary situation’ in Parliament at the moment.
He said: ‘I will also today contact [Health Minister Matt Hancock] to restate our ambition to work together collaboratively and to stress the need to take forward our discussions on the future of community pharmacy without delay.’
He added that he hoped the PSNC will still receive a negotiating mandate from the DHSC and NHS England before Easter, as is currently expected.
NPA: Community pharmacy ‘needs urgent attention’
The National Pharmacy Association (NPA) looked to the future, hoping for a positive relationship with Mr Brine’s successor.
NPA chief executive NPA Mark Lyonette said: ‘As pharmacy minister, Steve Brine showed a willingness to engage positively with our sector and we hope he will continue an active interest now he is on the backbenches.
‘We will make the case to his successor that the current situation in community pharmacy is unsustainable and needs urgent attention – and that we want to work in partnership to make things better for pharmacists, patients and the NHS. A multi-year funding settlement would help underpin meaningful progress.
‘We continue to build stronger relationships with officials and with the Health Secretary, who has agreed to attend the NPA conference in June.
‘At the same time, our work to help independent pharmacies engage with the NHS at local level will intensify, as we recognise the growing importance of Primary Care Networks in England’s healthcare commissioning infrastructure.’