HC Deb 27 January 1998 vol 305 cc130-1
3. Mrs. Virginia Bottomley

If he will make a statement on the future of the pharmaceutical price regulation scheme. [23415]

The Secretary of State for Health (Mr. Frank Dobson)

The present pharmaceutical price regulation scheme ends in September this year. We are considering what the future arrangements should be. Our twin aims will be to keep down the cost of drugs for the NHS while helping to sustain the international success of the British pharmaceutical industry.

Mrs. Bottomley

Does the Secretary of State intend that the renegotiation be completed, and the revised arrangements be in place, by October?

Mr. Dobson

It is our intention—we may not succeed, but it is our intention.

Mr. Blizzard

Community pharmacists who serve neighbourhoods in my constituency are under threat from applications to site pharmacies in out-of-town supermarkets. If such applications succeed, those community pharmacies will go out of business and, if they do, many people without cars in those neighbourhoods will be disadvantaged, especially the elderly and lone parents. Will my right hon. Friend please look into the problem and try to help community pharmacists to withstand that threat?

Mr. Dobson

We are certainly aware of the problem, but there is a balance to be struck. We want to retain as many local community pharmacists as possible and to encourage trained pharmacists to make a greater contribution to the national health service than they are making at present.

Mr. Ian Bruce

This is all waffle—the Secretary of State should look at his Government's Competition Bill.

Mr. Dobson

If the hon. Member for South Dorset (Mr. Bruce) shuts up for a minute and listens, he will hear me say that there are substantial numbers of people who find it convenient to obtain the drugs they want when visiting the supermarket. The balance is one between two different types of convenience and it will have to be struck.

Rev. Martin Smyth

I appreciate that the Secretary of State wants to defend the pharmaceutical industry, but he must also bear in mind the fact that some of the supermarkets might pick and choose the type of drugs they want to sell, which would endanger the overall spread throughout the country. Will he bear that in mind when making his evaluation?

Mr. Dobson

I will certainly bear in mind those very points, because they are the points that we have been making in our discussions with the various interested parties. However, as I said, there is a balance to be struck. We want to maximise the convenience of all potential users of pharmacies, and to encourage and extend the contribution that trained pharmacists can make. At the moment, I do not think that they are getting a great deal of job satisfaction out of some of their work and we are not getting a return on the substantial investment in their lengthy training.

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