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Sector bodies: Pharmacies may struggle to pay back funding advance

Paying back advanced funding released by the Department of Health and Social Care (DH) to tackle COVID-19 could cause pharmacies in England to close, sector bodies have warned.

Sector bodies have voiced concerns following yesterday’s (June 30) announcement by the DH and the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) that pharmacies in England will receive £20 million in advanced funding.

Leyla Hannbeck, chief executive of the Association of Independent Multiple Pharmacies (AIMp), said that while the funding advance helps, it “doesn’t go far enough”.

“If we have to repay these advances, with or without a repayment model, pharmacies will close,” she told C+D yesterday.

Ms Hannbeck said there has been a “surge in costs caused by coronavirus, script volumes down due to GP surgeries remaining closed and acute patients not presenting for diagnosis or [being] too scared to visit pharmacies”. On top of this, “delivery costs [are] through the roof due to many more patients demanding deliveries who do not qualify for the shielding payment”, she added.

NPA: Long-term settlement needed

The National Pharmacy Association (NPA) chief executive Mark Lyonette said the government needs to “make good on its commitments to meet all the additional costs associated with coronavirus”.

“It’s not clear why the UK government has so far been unable to progress this, in the way devolved administrations have begun to do,” he added.

“Ultimately, we need a long-term financial settlement that allows pharmacies to deliver on ambitions for innovation and improvement, benefiting patients and the NHS,” Mr Lyonette said to C+D yesterday.

If pharmacies have to repay the funding further “down the road”, the settlement “could even make matters worse”, he warned.

CCA:  “Grave concerns”

While it welcomes the funding advance, the Company Chemists’ Association (CCA) chief executive Malcolm Harrison said it has “grave concerns” that pharmacy businesses “will not be able to continue to cope in this unprecedented and ongoing situation without fair and adequate additional support”.

The CCA will “continue to work with both our partners in the sector and with NHS England and Improvement and the DH to make sure that we get reasonable and fair additional funding”, he added.

“The sector needs more than just advances to support cashflow to continue to help patients with their medicines and healthcare needs during this crisis,” Mr Harrison told C+D yesterday.

RPS: Government must “get behind” pharmacy

Professor Claire Anderson, chair of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society’s (RPS) English pharmacy board, said the sector needs “more than another cash advance.”

“We are looking for a sustainable and fair funding settlement for the longer-term,” she told C+D yesterday.

Professor Anderson praised pharmacy teams for working “tirelessly” during the COVID-19 crisis and said “we need to see new money being invested to support our profession to help us deliver health services in the future”.

“The government has said it values the role of pharmacy teams. It is now time they get behind the sector,” she added.

What do you make of the advanced payment arrangement?

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