The sector will have to ‘wait for the Budget like everybody else’ to see whether community pharmacy will receive more funding from the Government, according to pharmacy minister Steve Brine.

Julie Cooper, MP for Burnley, raised concerns about community pharmacies at risk of closure following the recent cuts to funding in a debate in the House of Commons yesterday (14 November).

Ms Cooper highlighted Celesio UK’s announcement of its intention to close 190 LloydsPharmacy branches last month. Outgoing managing director Cormac Tobin attributed the decision to the funding cuts and other ‘retrospective clawbacks’.

In response to the question, Mr Brine said Ms Cooper ‘will have to wait for the Budget like everybody else’. ‘We [the Government] continue to monitor the market carefully in the community pharmacies sector,’ he added.

‘No other significant closures’

Mr Brine was once again asked about the recent assessment of the potential effect of the cuts on pharmacies yesterday via written question by Labour MP for Kingston Upon Hull North Diana R Johnson.

Mr Brine replied that – other than the LloydsPharmacy closures – there were ‘no other significant closures since the introduction of the reforms’.

He said: ‘Access to pharmaceutical services is good, with 88% of people falling within a 20 minute walk of community pharmacy.

‘For areas where there are fewer pharmacies, our access scheme continues to provide additional protection.

‘A growing number of internet pharmacies also support access, offering patients greater choice.’

In 2016/2017, 47 community pharmacies closed in England.

Bleak reality

If Mr Brine said that ‘pharmacies are a critical part of the primary care infrastructure in this country’, the reality is that the funding cuts have weakened the sector.

The Pharmacist has been running a series of case studies on how the cuts are affecting pharmacists.

We found several contractors who experienced the full impact of the cuts, losing many thousands of pounds and struggling to deliver high-quality patient care, among other difficulties.

With the Budget announcement taking place next week (22 November), pharmacists will have to hope that the Government will thoroughly consider the current financial pressures.

Read The Pharmacist editor Beth Kennedy’s take on the LloydsPharmacy closures here.