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‘Another missed opportunity’: Sector reacts to spring budget

The Chancellor’s spring budget includes £2.5 billion “additional” funding for the NHS, but sector leaders have criticised the lack of “specific relief for community pharmacies”. 

Yesterday (March 6), Chancellor Jeremy Hunt announced a total £5.9bn funding injection for the NHS.

He said that £3.4bn would be invested in modernising IT systems as part of the “NHS productivity plan”.

And he also committed to helping “the NHS meet pressures in the coming year with an additional £2.5bn”.

Mr Hunt added that NHS boss Amanda Pritchard said the investment would allow the NHS to deliver “1.9% annual productivity growth over the next parliament” – “more than double the average productivity growth in public services between 2010 and 2019”.

He said that he wanted this “groundbreaking agreement with the NHS to be a model for all our public services”.

“The way to improve public services is not always more money or more people, we also need to run them more efficiently,” he added. 

Mr Hunt also announced a new tax on “vaping products” from October 26 to “discourage non-smokers” from using vapes, alongside an increase in tobacco duty to “maintain the financial incentive to choose vaping over smoking”.

And he said that manufacturer AstraZeneca has plans to invest £650 million to “fund the building of a vaccine manufacturing hub” in Liverpool and to expand the Cambridge biomedical campus.


“No sign of relief” for pharmacies


Reacting to the budget announcement, Community Pharmacy England (CPE) highlighted that the plan offered “no specific relief for community pharmacies”.

It added that the budget brought “no sign of relief” for a sector “grappling with soaring costs and severe medicine supply and pricing issues”.

CPE chief executive Janet Morrison said that the “budget brings no obvious good news for community pharmacies”.

“While the NHS productivity plans may theoretically add some efficiencies across primary care”, any “real benefit” to pharmacies remains to be seen as “the devil will be in the detail”, she added.

Association of Independent Multiple Pharmacies (AIMp) chief executive Leyla Hannbeck yesterday said that "community pharmacies nationwide will see this budget as yet another missed opportunity to address chronic underfunding.”

“Without the right investment, the much-vaunted Pharmacy First initiative risks becoming little more than a hollow pledge that will fall far short of solving the primary care crisis,” she added.

Meanwhile, former Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) England board chair Thorrun Govind this morning took to social media platform X to reflect on the budget.

Reflecting on an IT crash that left contractors unable to complete Pharmacy First consultations this week, she said that community pharmacy “[needs] some of that £ for tech @Jeremy_Hunt”.

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