Pharmacies should be able to offer basic medical treatment like flu jabs or diabetes care to relieve the pressure on GPs, an MP has said.
Tory Ben Gummer (Ipswich) said Britain was behind other countries in Europe when it came to pharmacies offering additional services, pointing out that only one in 10 clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) contract the chemist to offer treatment.
Mr Gummer partly blamed it on a state bureaucracy that would “make the North Korean government proud”.
During a Commons debate in Westminster Hall, he said: “Only 10 per cent of CCGs have a contractual relationship for additional services with pharmacies.
“This is unusual in the European context - as is so often the case the provision of healthcare in this country is somewhat behind our European neighbours.
“Because here you’ve got these highly-qualified people who are actually centred where they can serve local populations and yet what they can’t do in so many cases is offer the kind of medical services either which they could do if they were in France or Germany or the Netherlands or indeed in some of the more enlightened parts of the country, which they could do very easily and relieve pressure on general practitioners and hospitals.
“In fact the scale of things they could do is quite significant. Why can they not offer basic diabetic treatment? Or flu jabs?
“After all, one could go for emergency contraception if you wished to the pharmacist but you could not go for a whole series of other treatments which they no doubt could offer.”
Health minister Dan Poulter said the government’s reforms in the Health and Social Care Act 2012 allowed CCGs to contract out more services to pharmacies.
He described it as a “real opportunity” for pharmacists to make the case for providing additional treatment.
Dr Poulter said: “There is an increasingly important role that pharmacies are playing within our NHS. We now have many pharmacies which are providing additional services and they are contracted to do so outside of these pricing frameworks and are done so at a local level by CCGs, health and wellbeing boards or local authorities can also contract pharmacies to provide services.
“It is also the case that under the 2012 Act the opportunity for other providers of healthcare services outside of the traditional GP services and secondary care were given more of an opportunity to offer themselves to provide valuable services.
“I think this is a real opportunity for pharmacists to bring forward to CCGs what they do and to make the case that actually they can provide many services in a way that can be focused on primary prevention and save the health economy locally money, but also deliver better care.
“The track record of pharmacists is very good in giving community care, looking after people with diabetes or simple services for other patient groups.”