HC Deb 09 November 1977 vol 938 cc113-4W
Mr. Peter Mills

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services, in view of the many problems facing rural pharmacists, if he will make a statement on his proposals to meet these problems.

Mr. Ennals:

I am aware that some rural pharmacies, particularly those which dispense small numbers of prescriptions, have been facing serious problems. I am convinced that some of these difficulties stem from the present flat-rate system of NHS remuneration, which does not take account of the higher unit operating costs of smaller pharmacies and which results in larger pharmacies receiving considerably more than the NHS contract is designed to produce. In July, I proposed to the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee that NHS remuneration should be paid on a differential scale which would improve the income of smaller pharmacies and offered to provide £5 million over two years to assist the transition. I estimate that 70 per cent. of all pharmacies, including most of those serving rural communities, would benefit under my proposals. Some pharmacies would get an immediate increase of over £1,200 a year. On 1st November the PSNC sent me counter-proposals, which I am considering urgently.

Mr. Lomas

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services how many pharmacies have closed down in the West Yorkshire Area in 1974, 1975, 1976 and the latest figure in 1977 ; and if he will take action to correct the damage being done to patients who are compelled to travel a considerable distance to have prescriptions dispensed.

Mr. Moyle:

In the metropolitan county of West Yorkshire, there were 15 net closures of pharmacies in 1975 and six in 1976. From 1st January 1977 to 30th September 1977 there was a net loss of five pharmacies. Comparable figures are not available for 1974.

I am at present discussing with the Pharmaceutical Services negotiating Committee possible changes in the remuneration system which should help to maintain an adequate network of pharmacies.