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‘Pharmacies are helpless in the face of catastrophic drug shortages’

Pharmacy teams need a government cash injection to be able to continue supplying medicines to patients during the COVID-19 outbreak, says The Contractor

The impact the pandemic has had on my pharmacies is beyond belief. My staff and I have never seen such high demand for our services. It’s like Christmas is about to happen every day, expect there will be no celebration and certainly no bank holiday.

Patients are asking:

“Can you deliver medicines if we self-isolate?”

“Do you have thermometers, face masks and hand sanitiser?”

“Will you remain open? What will happen to our medicines?”

“I’ve read that I can’t take ibuprofen?”

Through all those questions, I’m thinking: “What if my staff and I fall ill? How am I going to carry on when I’m already so cash strapped? What about my staff, who are exhausted on a normal day?”

The medicine shortages that seemed so terrible before are now catastrophic. Paracetamol? Calpol? The basic items are running out and we are utterly helpless.

I remember when the funding cuts happened in 2016. The sector was told that the Department of Health and Social Care (DH) placed less importance on dispensing, so they cut our funding.

Well, where are the automated dispensing hubs to bail us out? Community pharmacies are on the frontline of healthcare. The GPs have shut shop and left us in charge. Pharmacy teams are open to calm the public, and we’ve taken matters into our own sanitised hands. If pharmacies didn’t exist, imagine the extra pressure that would shift onto the NHS.

We’ve  been left to sort things alone. We’ve taken the initiative ourselves to put posters up warning people not to come in if they are displaying symptoms of COVID-19.

We’ve created social distancing measures by whatever means feasible. The most worrying aspect is that asymptomatic people can still be infectious, so we’re at constant risk of contracting it ourselves.

I’ve shut the doors to  my smaller pharmacy as it’s more practical. Unfortunately, the other is the size of a mini supermarket.

Something needs to be done. We need a cash injection, otherwise there’s no way of survival. COVID-19 kills people, but so will lack of medicines.

The government needs to wake up and help pharmacy. Now.

The Contractor is an independent pharmacy owner in England

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