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Labour will hold government to account for pharmacy supervision plans

Julie Cooper: Pharmacy technicians do a fantastic job, but they’re not the same as a pharmacist
Julie Cooper: Pharmacy technicians do a fantastic job, but they’re not the same as a pharmacist

A Labour MP has branded plans to amend pharmacy supervision legislation as a “massive attack” on community pharmacy and vowed her party will fight them.

C+D revealed earlier this month that detailed proposals for pharmacy technicians to be handed legal responsibility for supervising the supply of prescription-only medicines have been submitted to a Department of Health programme board.

Julie Cooper, MP for Burnley and Padiham, said she “will oppose [the proposals] all the way”.

“[Labour] will hold the government to account on this,” Ms Cooper told C+D in an exclusive interview at her party's conference in Brighton on Monday (September 25).

“It's absolutely outrageous – a massive attack on community pharmacists as a profession, but most importantly it affects patient safety,” Ms Cooper said.

“We’re on a very dangerous trajectory,” added Ms Cooper, who used to own and run a community pharmacy with her pharmacist husband.

Pharmacy "on the cheap"

“Pharmacists are the experts when it comes to medication and therapeutic doses and sometimes, not that infrequently, prescriptions are written that aren't safe,” Ms Cooper said. “A dispensing technician doesn't have the expertise.”

Pharmacy technicians do a “fantastic job”, but they are “not the same” as a pharmacist, Ms Cooper stressed.

The Conservative government seems “intent on sticking the boot in”, she said. “They're looking at pharmacy on the cheap.”

Labour stance on pharmacy

“Labour will take community pharmacists seriously, we accord them the respect they deserve,” Ms Cooper said.

The party's last general election manifesto included a pledge to halt pharmacy closures and empower local authorities to protect pharmacies – inclusions Ms Cooper said she had requested.

"We're very serious about working with community pharmacies to develop their increased role," she said. "Labour MPs have in great numbers talked about community pharmacy."

Speaking at a National Pharmacy Association-organised event at the conference, Ms Cooper predicted there will be more funding cuts in store, as pharmacy is an “easy target” and there is a “genuine ignorance in government” about the sector.

“[Some Conservative MPs] seem to be in denial [of] the cause and effect. It is criminal what’s happening.”

“Stand up now”

However, there are MPs “across the house” who value community pharmacy, she said.

Ms Cooper has spoken to Conservative MPs “conflicted” between the “needs of their constituents” and their party’s position, she told C+D.

Ms Cooper said she has told Conservative MPs privately and publicly about the effect of the funding cuts, advising them that “if you don't approve, it's now the time to stand up and say”.

Have you contacted your MP about the funding cuts or supervision proposals?

R A, Community pharmacist

If my memory serves me correct the Labour government was in power when Boots was taken over by Stefano in a questionable deal and the same happened to Cadbury and what did the Labour government do then? IMHO Labour is no better than the Tories we really are stuck between a rock and a hard place. 

Ilove Pharmacy, Non Pharmacist Branch Manager

Sadly nobody is listening. Soon such comments will be edited or even deleted by C&D as it does not fit the prescribed narrative.

M Yang, Community pharmacist

“They're looking at pharmacy on the cheap.” This should be the slogan. Combine this with the threat of pharmacy closures:

Imagine waking up to find you have the flu. Or your child has a chest infection and needs an antibiotic urgently, but your local pharmacy has shut down.

If you find a pharmacy, will there even be a pharmacist to help you?

Not if the Tories get their way.

They want to do things on the cheap and do away with our country's highly skilled and trained pharmacists.

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