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.”
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.