Since the beginning of the coronavirus crisis pharmacy teams have been working tirelessly to ensure the public can get the medicines and healthcare support that they desperately need.
At a time when we have seen an unprecedented increase in the demand for all medicines across the country, and when many of our team members have needed to follow the government’s advice to self-isolate, the pressure on our teams has been immense. Despite this pressure, community pharmacies have remained open to serve the public, keeping them well and away from hospital, and they will continue to do so as the crisis develops, and beyond.
Today Ministers have agreed to provide an advanced payment to the community pharmacy sector of £300m, to be paid across April and May. We are disappointed with both the scale of the support currently being provided and the fact that pharmacies will ultimately have to pay it back to the government in the months to come.
Earlier this month the Chancellor of the Exchequer committed in Parliament that “Whatever extra resources our NHS needs to cope with coronavirus – it will get”. We do not think that the support pharmacy teams are being provided will allow them to cope with coronavirus.
The £200m to be paid in April will only just cover half of the estimated uplift in prescription items seen this month, and pharmacies will have to pay this money back. In addition to the increased cost of purchasing medicines, pharmacies are having to pay for additional staff and overtime, additional cleaning and guarding as well as providing protective equipment such as screens and visors, to protect their teams, so that they can stay open for the public.
We have grave concerns that pharmacy businesses, large and small, will not be able to continue to cope in this unprecedented situation without adequate additional support and may be forced to close permanently.
We will continue to work with both our partners in the sector and with NHSE&I and DHSC to make sure that we get reasonable and fair additional funding to both enable the sector to purchase medicines for the public on behalf of the NHS, and to cover the additional exceptional costs the sector has incurred as it continues to help patients with their medicines and healthcare needs during this crisis.