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Lib Dem MP calls on pharmacy minister to prevent further closures

Tim Farron MP visiting a pharmacy in his south Cumbria constituency last year
Tim Farron MP visiting a pharmacy in his south Cumbria constituency last year

A former Liberal Democrat leader has urged pharmacy minister Seema Kennedy to introduce a pharmacy protection scheme to prevent further closures.

Tim Farron asked whether Ms Kennedy would “introduce an Essential Community Pharmacies Scheme to support rural pharmacies, such as those in Cumbria, and keep them open”, during a debate on free prescriptions in the House of Commons on Tuesday (June 18).

There have been 233 community pharmacy closures in the last two years, the Liberal Democrat MP for Westmorland and Lonsdale in Cumbria claimed. This makes patients’ access to prescriptions “much harder”, he stressed.

In response, Ms Kennedy said: “We recognise the importance of community pharmacies. Pharmacists are specialists who have a great role in primary care, which is why they are highlighted in the NHS long-term plan.”

Protection schemes

Last August, Mr Farron gathered 1,500 signatures to a petition urging the government to save independent pharmacies from closing. It followed a parliamentary motion calling for the government to establish an Essential Community Pharmacy Scheme, to provide “core funding so that community pharmacies won’t be forced to close”.

While “pharmacies in South Lakes have weathered the storm, with some being taken over by national chains…many are struggling”, Mr Farron told C+D at the time.

The Pharmacy Access Scheme was introduced in December 2016 to protect pharmacies in England situated one mile or more from another pharmacy by road from the “full effect” of the funding cuts. Eligible pharmacies will continue to receive funding under interim arrangements for 2019-20, the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee said in March.

Last week, the National Pharmacy Association warned that the sector is “on the brink of facing an uncontrolled and unpredictable series of closures” because of worsening financial pressures.

Have any pharmacies closed in your area recently?

Leon The Apothecary, Student

However, that's not what the aim is now, is it? The aim is to close pharmacies to reduce spending. I believe this MP's words are merely hyperbole.

C A, Community pharmacist

Yes surely the people out in the sticks of the south lakes don't deserve a pharmacy and can make do with an internet pharmacy?

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