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Mowat insists 'clinical' pharmacists are not a 'red herring'

Pharmacy minister David Mowat has denied that employing "clinical" pharmacists is a "red herring".

Mr Mowat was responding to a statement by Labour MP for Burnley Julie Cooper, who claimed: "The government [is] suggesting that in-surgery pharmacists are a substitute [for community pharmacies], but that is a red herring."

"I welcome the use of well-qualified pharmacists in GP surgeries, but that is a totally separate issue," she added. "It is like comparing hospital doctors to GPs."

In the debate in Westminster Hall yesterday (January 11), which C+D attended, the pharmacy minister insisted he is “committed” to employing more pharmacists in GP practices.

“There are something like 400 clinical pharmacists working in GP practices. We have committed and budgeted £112 million to increase that to 2,000 clinical pharmacists, many of them dispensing pharmacists.”

This scheme is “not in conflict” with community pharmacy's role, despite criticisms from “some parts of the pharmacy network”, Mr Mowat stressed.

“[The scheme] is a way of breaking down the barriers there have occasionally been between clinical commissioning groups, GPs and the pharmacy profession. They are not in anyone’s interests and we need to get over them,” Mr Mowat said.

The parliamentary motion being debated was brought by Conservative MP Anne Main, to explore how the government can better integrate pharmacies into the health service.

Mr Mowat introduced his comments by claiming “there is a huge amount of agreement” between MPs about the issues facing pharmacy.

Previous funding model "encourages clusters"

Mr Mowat also claimed that “[some]thing we all agree on” is that “value for money” is needed from the “£2.8 billion we spend on dispensing around £8bn worth of drugs”.

“The existing funding model encourages clusters to develop,” said Mr Mowat, echoing Jeremy Hunt’s criticism of pharmacy "clusters" in parliament on Monday.

But Ms Cooper dubbed “clusters” another “red herring”. She highlighted how pharmacies are “independent” businesses that “respond to demand”.

She gave an example of four pharmacies close to one another that are all “really busy”.

“If a new one opens, it does not cost the government any more [money]; it just means the same amount of money is shared out more thinly.”

Conservative MP Jo Churchill also argued that clusters are not problematic, pointing out that mutiples and independents provide different services. “The last thing we want is an independent pharmacy not being able to survive”.

The “clinical pharmacist” debate on Twitter

What do you think about the push for more practice pharmacists?

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