Steve Brine spoke in a key debate in Westminster Hall on the future of community pharmacy.
The MP for Winchester and Chandler’s Ford spoke about proposals for fundamental change to community pharmacy through a “hub and spoke” model.
The former Pharmacy Minister, speaking about the Medicines & Medical Devices Bill, said; “It advanced the idea of making what would be pretty fundamental change to community pharmacy through the shift to what we call the “hub and spoke” model and it’s this I just want to touch on.
“The Minister is very familiar with the arguments but, for those who are not, what we’re talking about is a totally new way of working whereby independent pharmacists have a ‘hub’ pharmacy that dispenses medicines on a large scale for regular ‘spoke’ pharmacies that then supply them to the patient. A consultation as far back as 2016 flew this flag and it was confirmed in the Long-Term Plan of January 2018.
“We then fast forward to life in the pandemic and it’s true the combination of rising prescription volumes and reduced patient access to primary care services has put great pressure on community pharmacies to keep up the face-to-face contact that their customers want, and need.”
Steve went on to highlight that there are concerns over unintended effects of a ‘hub and spoke’ model, saying; “Many are understandably worried that centralised dispensing could drive down costs in pharmacy and, unless the pharmacist on your high street then acts as the ‘spoke’ part, ie; handing the prescription to the patient, we just end up with a bigger distance selling pharmacy market and a lack of patient contact that then puts opportunities for wider primary care contact actually out of reach.
“So, put simply, the unintended consequence could be a total stitch up that leaves community pharmacy as not so much “always the bridesmaid / never the bride”, as I often heard, but more like jilted at the altar and I don’t want to see that happen.”
Winchester’s MP also took the time, during the debate, to recognise the work that community pharmacists have done, speaking a year after the pandemic setting in, Steve said; “I am so glad Ministers have consistently recognised the work of community pharmacists throughout. And I join colleagues in paying tribute to mine, they’re a workforce that just get on with it.”