Hull North MP Diana Johnson has made the statement below to Hull North constituents who have contacted her regarding the Government's funding cut to community pharmacies.
Thank you for contacting me regarding cuts to community pharmacies in Hull and elsewhere, which are set to take effect from December this year.
Although I was not able to attend today’s Opposition Day Debate on the topic, I share your deep concerns about these planned cuts. I have been asking the Health Secretary a number of questions about what impact these cuts will have locally, and I am happy to set out some of the work I am doing in this area.
As you will know, community pharmacies are the backbone of our health system and currently 80% of all patient contact in our NHS is currently done through community pharmacies. They are instrumental in delivering preventative healthcare and taking the pressure away from frontline services in hospitals and GP surgeries. They offer a vital lifeline for some of the most elderly and vulnerable in our society, and it is unfortunate that the Government has set out plans to cut pharmacies just when they look set to play a greater role in a more integrated health care system. I worry that these cuts could have a knock-on impact on other healthcare services in Hull, which are already faced with considerable pressures themselves.
The Government needs to come clean on the negative impact that these cuts look set to have locally, especially in the most deprived parts of Hull. That is why I have asked the Secretary of State for Health a number of detailed questions about precisely what these cuts will mean for local residents. I have raised four key issues with him.
Firstly, I have asked what the local impact of these closures will be in Hull. The previous Minister of State for Health admitted that the cuts could lead to the closure of 1,000-3,000 pharmacies – the Government has since tried to backtrack on this. We also know that pharmacies are more concentrated in deprived parts of the UK, so it is difficult to see the Government’s plans to break up “clusters” of pharmacies close together as anything other than a threat to deprived urban areas in Hull. Research by Durham University has backed up this claim, which suggests that our area looks set to be hit harder than other parts of the UK. Some 75% of pharmacy users go to the same pharmacy, and for many people their pharmacist is the only health professional they have contact with. These closures could leave people with no local provider to go to. That is why I have asked the Health Secretary a number of questions about what these cuts will mean locally.
Secondly, I want to know what impact these changes could have on the wider health system.
We know that pharmacies are being used more and more as a way of referring people to GPs and other healthcare providers, and they also help prevent healthcare issues from becoming more serious – in the long-run, this system can save taxpayers money. So I have asked the Health Secretary to provide figures on the preventative work that pharmacies already do, and to explain what he is doing to ensure this excellent work can continue to take place.
Thirdly, local councils like Hull have been clear that pharmacies are vital in preserving thriving, commercial high streets. The loss of local pharmacies could take the life out of some areas, lose councils business rates revenue and lead to the creation of yet more betting shops and unhealthy fast food outlets. I have asked Ministers to provide details on this.
Finally, although the Government has announced a scheme to help pharmacies cope with these planned cuts, I am sceptical about whether this scheme – the so-called Pharmacy Access Scheme (PhAS) – will really be of benefit to Hull. I have therefore asked the Secretary of State to come clean on just what benefit these will bring, if any, to local communities here: will Hull see any of this money, or is all of it set to go to wealthier parts of the country?
As stated above, I share your concerns and I intend to continue to pressure Ministers on the impact these cuts could have on the poorest and most vulnerable in our society.
Thank you again for contacting me about this issue.