Friday, 24 May 2013
Local businesses supporting each other in Bedford
I have been in Bedford today with Richard Fuller MP. He told me about the work being done locally by their "BID" Business improvement district. Learning from the outstanding examples set by the Games-makers at London 2012, local businesses are working together to make sure that visitors to the town have the best possible customer experience. We visited three truly unique independent companies - and it really is impressive. I will definitely be coming back shopping! It was good to hear that shop takings are up and the retailers believe that the worst of the recession is behind us.
Richard Fuller MP also came with me to visit the Co-operative Pharmacy in Putnoe. I've been asking some questions about "parallel trading" of pharmaceuticals in Brussels and the Managing Director of Co-op chemists, John Nuttall had asked to meet.
Richard and I learnt about how local chemists can bring great value to a local area, promoting better health and helping the local community. John and his staff explained that from time to time it can be challenging to obtain certain medicines and that sometimes this is due to stocks which were initially destined for British patients being sold by wholesalers to buyers in other European countries. This "parallel trading" does sometimes help to keep prices lower, but shortages are always concerning. We were told that Department of Health officials are having a good look at the costs and prices charged along the supply chain. I think it is important to make sure that there are not anti-competitive practices. We need affordable medicines but we also need available medicines.
This was also a good time to discuss the new procedures that are coming into place to help reduce counterfeiting of drugs. One in four "fake" products captured at borders is a fake drug - and even some prescription drugs have been affected. In Brussels there are new rules coming into place from 1st July which will mean produces of active ingredients of drugs need to be certified - even from as far afield as India and China. This should be good for patient safety. I met the European Commissioner responsible earlier this month and asked for his reassurance that there should not be any shortfalls in supply during the transition. It was good to hear from the pharmacists on the ground that they are not seeing any supply issues due to the implementation.