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Steve Brine: The minister who didn’t start or end the pharmacy cuts

"Mr Brine’s positive rhetoric was not always matched by his actions"

C+D editor James Waldron offers his initial reaction to Steve Brine's resignation

Theresa May’s divisive Brexit strategy claimed another political casualty last night – this time in the form of the pharmacy minister.

Since being appointed in June 2017, Steve Brine quickly set himself apart with bold, positive statements about the sector, including stating to C+D that pharmacy deserves “fair and sustainable” funding.

That’s not to say Mr Brine’s rhetoric was always matched by his actions. If his saving grace was to have been two steps removed from his government’s original sin of slashing pharmacy funding in England, his legacy will be to have overseen the extension of these cuts over two years – causing multiples to shrink and pushing some independents to the brink of bankruptcy.

This duality was reflected in an all-party pharmacy group meeting attended by Mr Brine four months into his tenure, which I sat in on. Coming days after the news that Lloydspharmacy would divest around 190 branches to cope with the funding cuts, Mr Brine seemed engaged with the meeting itself, but detached from any sense of the government’s responsibility for the multiple’s move, branding it a “commercial decision”.

Unfortunately, despite repeated requests that lasted up until yesterday, he never found the time to sit down with C+D for a full interview, depriving us of a vital chance to hear about his strategy for the sector in any detail.

If his successor is a fan of quick political wins (is there a politician who isn’t?), they will see the current pharmacy funding negotiations as a chance to get a hugely valuable army of healthcare professionals on their side, as well as make their mark on a national health strategy that so far has been dominated by NHS England’s focus on GPs.

If not, the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee’s plans for a five-year, services-focused contract, and the long-term viability of thousands of pharmacies across England, could become yet another victim of the Brexit chaos.

James Waldron is editor of C+D. Let him know how your pharmacy is coping in 2019 by tweeting him @CandDJamesW or emailing him at [email protected]

2 Comments

Leon The Apothecary, Student

I believe whilst Brexit is going on, any progress in any department is going to be distracted at best. Until the proverbial dust settles on that particular issue, we are likely to be in limbo in my humble opinion.

Benie I, Locum pharmacist

Indeed, Brexit provides the perfect cover for them to do sweet FA. But it begs the question,  what was the excuse pre-Brexit ??

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