Christine Jardine, Liberal Democrat MP for Edinburgh West who is sponsoring the proposal for a debate – known as an early day motion – said yesterday (February 7) that pharmacies provide “an essential service in communities”, and stressed “prescription drugs can be an expensive commodity”.
Liberal Democrat MP Tim Farron tabled the early day motion last week (January 29) asking the government to fund independent community pharmacies to save them from the “scandal” of cash flow issues.
The Essential Community Pharmacy Scheme – which is detailed in the early day motion – would comprise funding for community pharmacies which are located four miles from another one "and/or" are independent or part of a small chain, a spokesperson for Mr Farron told C+D.
The scheme would be fleshed out by civil servants, with input from pharmacists, saving money in the long-run by taking pressure off A&E services, the spokesperson added.
The parliamentary motion has currently been supported by 10 MPs from four political parties – Labour, the Liberal Democrats, the Scottish National Party and the Democratic Unionist Party.
According to parliament.uk, early day motions can be used to demonstrate the level of parliamentary support for a particular cause and put on record the views of individual MPs. There is no specific time allocated to these motions and although "very few" are debated, "many attract a great deal of public interest and media coverag".
“Pharmacies losing thousands of pounds a month”
“Community pharmacies here in the South Lakes [area of Cumbria] are losing thousands of pounds every month just for providing a vital NHS service,” Mr Farron said.
“The erosion of NHS payments means that they often don't cover their basic drug costs, let alone the very many running costs they face,” he continued.
“This is clearly unsustainable and many of our local community pharmacies may be forced to close unless urgent action is taken by the government to shield community pharmacists from the high cost demanded by the big drug companies.”
A support group for locums has also written a letter for pharmacists to send to their local MP, urging them to back the early day motion.
Tohidul Islam, founder of agency The Locum Pharmacist Cooperative, told C+D yesterday the response to the letter has been "positive".
LPC: “Pharmacies surviving on owners’ capital”
Cumbria local pharmaceutical committee (LPC) – which covers Mr Farron's constituency – told C+D last week it favoured protecting "essential" pharmacies, “but this should not be at the expense of others.” “Additional funding is needed," it stressed.
Contractors in Cumbria are facing a “perfect storm of severe funding cuts, together with extreme challenges in purchasing medicines”, the LPC said
There are “over 100” medicines with national shortages, and contractors are dispensing them without knowing if they will be correctly reimbursed, it said.
Pharmacies are “surviving on capital being introduced by their owners”, in the hope that medicine purchase prices will return to more “normal values in due course”.
“We have identified several [pharmacies] which are at risk,” it added.