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PSNC to Sunak: Write off pharmacy's £370m COVID loan, or risk closures

PSNC has asked the chancellor Rishi Sunak to intervene in the COVID-19 funding negotiation to ensure pharmacies will not be required to repay £370 million in advance funding.

In a statement ahead of today’s (March 3) Spring budget, the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) CEO Simon Dukes has urged Mr Sunak “to stand by his promise to give the NHS whatever resources it needs to deal with the pandemic”.

He asked Mr Sunak to confirm in the budget “that he will do so for pharmacies”.

“Pharmacies cannot afford to pay back their COVID-19 emergency loans and the chancellor must now intervene to ensure that they are not asked to do so,” Mr Dukes added.

Rising costs could lead to more closures

In a letter to Mr Sunak last week (February 25), Mr Dukes said that according to PSNC’s calculations, pharmacies’ COVID-related costs now total “more than £400m and rising”.

“This money has been spent on carrying-out services for the NHS in a COVID-secure environment: dispensing over one billion prescriptions and providing millions of patient consultations,” he added.

The £400m figure had been calculated through monthly contractor surveys analysing the impact of COVID-19 on the sector, PSNC told C+D.

“These surveys capture contractor spends on things like staffing, PPE and other operational changes needed due to the pandemic, as well as losses in income. So far our estimates suggest that the impact is up to more than £400m – this will go up for every further month that contractors have to cover costs related to the pandemic,” it added.

Asking pharmacies to repay the £370m advance payment “will place many pharmacies at risk of closure at a time when the NHS is increasingly reliant on them to deliver COVID-19 vaccination services both now and in the booster campaign expected this winter”, Mr Dukes said.

Community pharmacies “expect the government to honour its commitment to give the NHS whatever it needs”, Mr Dukes said in his letter, hoping PSNC’s message will get the chancellor’s “urgent attention”.

MPs join persuasion efforts

PSNC also shared a briefing on community pharmacy’s funding situation with more than 50 MPs and peers, asking them to “persuade” the government to cover pharmacy’s COVID-19 costs.

“Some MPs have already written to the Treasury about the issue and we expect to see further questions, debates and meetings about this issue in parliament in the coming weeks,” PSNC added.

The negotiator encouraged contractors to write to their local MPs to explain their financial situation and ask for their help in raising this issue with the Treasury.

PSNC revealed last month (February 6) that the Treasury had decided not to “move from its original position” despite the additional data submitted by PSNC, showing the “extensive costs” that contractors have incurred as a result of the pandemic in the autumn.

Will you write to your MP to bring the funding issue to their attention?

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