Bristol South MP Karin Smyth has asked government Ministers to place community need at the heart of their healthcare thinking – rather than introducing cuts that leave the future of pharmacies at the mercy of market forces.
Urging a rethink of pharmacy cuts, the Labour MP told the House of Commons (2 November) that, whilst government plans to reduce funding are likely to see huge numbers of closures, they could fall in the wrong places because of a lack of strategic planning.
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She pointed out that walking through part of her constituency today along a busy shopping area of Bedminster you would pass seven pharmacies in a mile or so. Other communities in south Bristol are much less well-served, but because of the way the government cuts are being made, there would be no central oversight that would ensure communities that need a local pharmacy keep it.
Highlighting local concerns about pharmacy closures she said: “I have spent time in two pharmacies in my constituency – in Filwood Broadway and Bedminster – and like most honourable members I have been contacted by pharmacies and constituents worried about the plans.
“Greatest amongst these fears in my constituency, which has a relatively high density of pharmacies, but has severe problems with GP recruitment and the sustainability of primary care, and we stand to lose disproportionately because of those twin concerns.”
She told MPs how much her constituents value their local pharmacies. Research shows high percentages – around a third – of those who currently seek initial advice from a pharmacy would make a GP appointment instead if the pharmacy closed. In areas of high deprivation this percentage soars as high as 80 per cent.
Bristol South has a high density of pharmacies, high deprivation levels, and severe GP recruitment and access difficulties.
“The impact of pharmacy closures is not about the damage to healthcare but to the wider economy in some of our most deprived communities,” she said.
She highlighted the contrast between the current NHS sustainability and transformation programme, which takes a strategic overview of the whole system, and a rushed, market-led approach to pharmacies which indicates an absence of planning.
She said: “If Ministers were putting forward a new model that was genuinely built on pharmacies being at the forefront of government thinking in addressing the challenges of our health care that would be a good thing. But they are not – this is not a ‘modernisation package’ it a fig leaf and that is a great shame at this time.”
Karin Smyth added: “As a result of the government cutting from the centre, allowing no local control or ability to influence those outcomes, we risk ending up in a situation where these illogical cuts may fall in completely the wrong places.
“What results from this Tory funding cut is up to the market; those that decide it’s not profitable may close. This means it doesn’t necessarily follow that any closures in my constituency would be in areas of high density of pharmacies.”
Watch Karin Smyth MP’s speech: