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Simon Dukes: Coronavirus may lead to permanent pharmacy closures

Financial pressures caused by COVID-19 may cause pharmacies to close permanently unless the government provides a funding boost, PSNC chief executive Simon Dukes has said.

The coronavirus outbreak could mean that pharmacies closing due to staff sickness “may not open again”, the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) chief executive said on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme this morning (March 16).

Mr Dukes said “underfunding for five, six years” means there is a “real danger that some of these [pharmacies] are going to go under”.

He added that if medicines need to be delivered to patients during the outbreak, “we need to see government funding”.

“There is no NHS delivery service. If you have your medicines delivered it's either because you pay for it, as the patient, or the pharmacy is doing it for free,” he said.

The “massive demand” at the moment, including a “300-400% increase in demand” for ibuprofen and paracetamol has also had an impact on staff, who need to source the medicines and “get them on the shelves”, Mr Dukes added.

Pharmacies “on their knees financially”

He added, however, that the issue of insufficient funding “is more fundamental”.

Many community pharmacies were “on their knees financially”, even before the outbreak, and are now “teetering on the brink of collapse”, Mr Dukes added in a complementary statement released today by PSNC.

He explained that he is “genuinely concerned” that pharmacies forced to close due to coronavirus “will not have the funds” to re-open and the network will be reduced “just at the time when [it is] needed most”.

Last week (March 12), C+D published an exclusive investigation that revealed 142 community pharmacies closed between May 2018 and October 2019.

Mr Dukes called for “urgent investment now”, and pointed towards the increase in patient enquiries, requests for medicines delivery, price rises for common medicines and staff sickness due to the virus.

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