Health Committee

No 30, Session 2002-03                                           16 June 2003

EMBARGO  00.01 a.m Tuesday 17 June 2003

The Control of Entry Regulations and Retail Pharmacy Services in the UK - Report published

Mr David Hinchliffe MP, Chair of the Health Committee said:

"We undertook this short inquiry out of our concerns that the OFT analysis of the deregulation of pharmacies neglected the healthcare perspective. Anyone who has had contact with a good community pharmacy, for example, knows what a vital source of advice such a centre can be. Community pharmacies are increasingly a key provider within the NHS, a role that is likely to grow as time goes by. Pharmacists often freely give advice to customers which has substantial health benefits which in my view saves the NHS a lot of money."

The Committee concluded:

"Much of our evidence has suggested that the current system of control of entry regulations is overly inflexible and in need of reform. During this rapid inquiry, we have not been able to explore all possible options for future regulation, planning, and delivery of pharmacy services. However, it has become clear to us that the recommendations of the OFT report have the potential to make certain pharmacies unviable, potentially leaving some of the most vulnerable communities, who have the greatest health needs and are least able to travel long distances, without any local pharmacy provision, a situation which would be unacceptable."

"We are not convinced by the economic and competition arguments relied upon by the OFT to support its recommendation, and while we would welcome measures that encouraged pharmacies to provide a higher quality service to patients, we feel that in order to deliver the best possible service to NHS patients, Primary Care Trusts must retain the ability to plan the provision of local pharmacy services, which play an integral part in the delivery of health care to local communities. Deregulation which allows the market to decide where to provide any dispensing of NHS prescriptions would necessarily reduce the finances available for PCTs to plan the remaining NHS dispensing. We would not, therefore, support such deregulation. Any reforms to the regulatory framework for the provision of pharmacy services should be in close concert with the negotiations for a new payment system for pharmacies currently being carried out by the Department, and must fully take account of the wider role of pharmacies within the 'bigger picture' of the NHS and of this country's health needs, something we feel the OFT report has singularly failed to do."

Notes to Editors

The Health Committee will publish its Fifth Report of Session 2002-03 on The Control of Entry Regulations and Retail Pharmacy Services in the UK on Tuesday 17 June at 00.01 am. There will be no press conference.


In January 2003 the Office of Fair Trading published a report entitled The Control of Entry Regulations and Retail Pharmacy Services in the UK.

The remit of the investigation was to consider the effects of the Control of Entry Regulations on the service available to consumers, as well as the cost of this service. In doing so, the investigation applied a purely economic and consumer perspective, concluding that the Control of Entry Regulations for community pharmacies in the UK should be ended.  The report generated immediate controversy and public alarm, with its critics arguing that it sounded the "death knell" of smaller community pharmacy services. 

In the light of this controversy, we decided to conduct a rapid inquiry into the report. The inquiry was announced on 18 March 2003, and on 3 April 2003 we took oral evidence from the OFT, the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee, the Cooperative Pharmacy Community Technical Panel, and ASDA. We also received written evidence.

Confidential advance copies of the report, which will be embargoed until 00.01 am on Tuesday 17 June, will be available for collection on Monday 16 June between 12 noon and 1 p.m. from the reception desk at 7 Millbank, London SW1.

Please present this Press Notice; a signature will also be required.

Advance copies of the report will also be made available to the Press from the Press Gallery, House of Commons, at 12 noon on Monday 16 June. Witnesses' copies will be posted to them.

Following publication, copies of the Report will be on sale from the usual Stationery Office outlets (tel. 0845 702 3473) and the Parliamentary Bookshop (tel. 020 7219 3890). Following publication the Report may also be viewed at

The Health Committee is a Select Committee of the House of Commons.  It is appointed under Standing Order No. 152 to examine the expenditure, administration and policy of the Department of Health and associated public bodies. The Committee has power to send for persons, papers and records.