HC Deb 07 December 1993 vol 234 cc135-6
9. Mr. Janner

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what plans she has to help the small chemists in Leicestershire.

Mr. Bowis

The Government have helped small pharmacies by extending the essential small pharmacy scheme and by protecting the income of small pharmacies during the transition to the new arrangements.

Mr. Janner

Is the Minister aware of the great concern felt by small pharmacies in Leicestershire about the fact that they may be forced to close as a result of the Government's new remuneration policy? Does he accept that it is vital for sick people to have local chemists available to them and, if so, will he please review the remuneration policy, especially with regard to the provision of the more expensive drugs?

Mr. Bowis

Well, I am surprised. I thought that the hon. and learned Gentleman was going to say thank you. He wrote to us last July on behalf of small pharmacists in Leicestershire asking us to take account of the fact that the 2,000-prescription threshold for new payments for professional services was too high. We listened, we consulted and we reduced the figure to 1,500. We also recognised the need to safeguard low-volume pharmacies. We recognised their concern about the scheme's requirement of a distance of 2 km from the nearest pharmacy. Again, we listened, we consulted and reduced the distance to 1 km. After all that, I should have thought that the hon. and learned Gentleman could say thank you twice.

Mr. Duncan

In answering the concerns of the hon. and learned Member for Leicestershire, West (Mr. Janner), will my hon. Friend confirm that a substantial proportion of the extra money going to the NHS announced last week will go to the Trent region which includes Leicestershire? If my hon. Friend has the figures, perhaps he would enlighten the House by letting us know what they are.

Mr. Bowis

I am advised that the figure is £4 million extra.

Ms Glenda Jackson

Why should small pharmacists in my constituency thank the Minister, in the light of the fact that the 1,500 threshold means that up to 13 per cent. of small pharmacies may close—

Madam Speaker

Order. Will the hon. Lady please relate her question to Leicestershire?

Ms Jackson

Does the Minister agree that the experience of small pharmacies in Leicestershire is reflected nationwide? Does he further agree that the service provided by small pharmacists, when, upon occasion, prescriptions are delivered to house-bound and elderly pensioners, is something for which they should be remunerated?

Mr. Bowis

I am glad that the hon. Lady has realised that the distance between Leicestershire and London is a little more than 1 km. Nevertheless, she will recognise that the important point is that small pharmacists are being helped by these measures. The 1,500 prescriptions a month means an income of £30,000 and there is also the income from cosmetics and toiletries. However, we acknowledge the difficulty that some people might face, particularly in rural areas, of getting to more distant pharmacies and that is why we have introduced this very welcome scheme. I hope that small pharmacists, who may have a particular geographical reason for helping their local communities, may find it easier to survive and prosper.