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Hunt repeating 'tired, discredited' rhetoric about pharmacy

Rob Darracott: High time the secretary of state changed his negative tone

Jeremy Hunt’s claim that the NHS should not fund pharmacies in “clusters” has been branded “tired and discredited rhetoric” by pharmacy leaders.

The health secretary told a parliamentary debate on Monday (January 9) that the NHS should not "continue to subsidise pharmacies that are very close to other pharmacies".

“Our reforms are designed to ensure that where there is only one local pharmacy that people can access, that pharmacy is protected,” Mr Hunt said during a parliamentary debate on mental health and NHS performance.

Pharmacy Voice chief executive Rob Darracott said that, while the comment was “nothing new”, it is “disappointing” to hear this rhetoric “repeated over and over in the House [of Commons]”.

“It’s high time the secretary of state and the [pharmacy] minister changed their negative tone about pharmacy and, instead, embrace the opportunity we offer to address the growing number of problems facing the NHS,” he told C+D.

“Rather than reinforcing failure and repeating dubious arguments, ministers must move on and… start insisting [local commissioners] have conversations with community pharmacy as part of service redesign,” he added.

“Clusters are a solution”

Royal Pharmaceutical Society English board chair Sandra Gidley also hit back against Mr Hunt’s negative view of pharmacies located close together.

“Clusters of pharmacies should be viewed as a solution, rather than a problem,” she told C+D.

“By properly utilising frontline pharmacies to provide a wide range of services, such as minor ailments, the government could provide much better access to healthcare for patients, which would reduce pressures on GPs and A&E,” Ms Gidley added.

Numark managing director John D’Arcy said the health secretary’s comments were "grossly dismissive" of the value that community pharmacy adds to the healthcare system.

“Clustered pharmacies exist for a reason,” Mr D’Arcy said. “They indicate that there is high demand in certain areas and a more productive next step would be to assess the requirements of different areas.”

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