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Welsh pharmacies awarded more than £9m in recognition of COVID-19 work

More than £9m will be paid to community pharmacy contractors in Wales to recognise the role played by the sector during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Welsh government has said.

An injection of £5.6m was “provided directly to contractors early in the new year” after it was announced in December last year.

On top of this funding, “a further £3.5m” will be given to the sector in Wales, taking the total of additional funding to community pharmacies in 2020/21 to £9.1m, the minister for health and social services Vaughan Gething announced yesterday (March 16).

The new £9.1m is in addition to the global sum agreed for 2020/21 under the three-year funding deal announced in June last year, Mr Gething specified.

Advance payment deferred

Mr Gething had previously announced that a £55m advance payment would be deferred until the 2021/22 financial year and confirmed yesterday that “this has been actioned in order to support the cashflow situation for community pharmacies”.

Community Pharmacy Wales (CPW) chair Mark Griffiths welcomed the additional funding, saying it “reflects and appreciates the hard work and real expenditure made by the network during the most challenging period in the history of community pharmacy”.

“We are grateful that the minister for health, Vaughan Gething, and the whole Welsh government have recognised our contribution in word, in deed and in totality,” Mr Griffiths added.

Involve pharmacies in COVID vaccination programme

Mr Gething wants to see a greater number of community pharmacies involved in the COVID-19 vaccination programme, following a successful pilot in the north of Wales, he said.

He revealed that NHS Wales chief executive Andrew Goodall wrote to health board CEOs on March 1, “advising them to put in place arrangements to contract with community pharmacies in their areas that are able to deliver a minimum of 100 appointments each week, managed through the health boards’ established booking systems”.

In January, CPW announced that the Primary Care COVID-19 Immunisation Service (PCCIS) would enable all primary care providers, including community pharmacies, to participate in the delivery of COVID-19 vaccinations.

Four Welsh pharmacies in the north of Wales are currently involved in the vaccination programme. All seven Welsh health boards have issued calls for expressions of interest from pharmacies to get involved in the programme, according to CPW.

CCA: Replicate COVID funding in England

The Company Chemists’ Association (CCA) – which represents the largest multiples and supermarket pharmacies – said it is “extremely pleased” to see the sector’s “amazing work” during the pandemic has been recognised by the Welsh government.

CCA chief executive Malcolm Harrison added: “We renew our call on the government and the NHS in England to now do the same.

“They must reimburse pharmacies for the additional costs they have incurred by remaining open to provide NHS care and services throughout the crisis. These costs have been largely covered in both Wales and Scotland: we now need the same support for community pharmacy teams in England,” he stressed.

In a Westminster Hall debate last week (March 11), pharmacy minister Jo Churchill suggested that the £370m advance funding for community pharmacy in England might be reduced, rather than waived completely.

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