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NPA: Talk of pharmacy protests if £370m COVID payment isn’t waived

NPA: The fact that strike action is talked about is a sign of how bad the situation has become
NPA: The fact that strike action is talked about is a sign of how bad the situation has become

There is talk in the sector about “some form of protest” if the government does not waive the requirement to pay back the £370 million in COVID advance funding, the NPA has said.

National Pharmacy Association (NPA) chair Andrew Lane today (February 10) called on the chancellor Rishi Sunak to cancel community pharmacy’s obligation to pay back the funds as part of his upcoming March 3 budget.

“This is a desperate situation for many of our members, so it’s not surprising that you do hear people talking about some form of protest,” Mr Lane said. “But no one wants to let their patients down, so strike action is the last thing any pharmacist would want to do.”

The £370 million in advance funding was made available to pharmacy contractors in England to help them cope with the additional pressures and challenges imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

In November, the Department of Health and Social Care (DH) said it was “carefully considering” waiving the obligation to pay it back, the sector has not yet had a response on this.

The NPA’s petition calling on the government to forgive the debts has garnered more than 51,000 signatures as of today, while a  report, commissioned by the organisation and published last September predicted that 72% of pharmacies would be in debt by 2024.

An NPA spokesperson told C+D that the organisation had “repeatedly called for fair funding and for government promises to be met”.

“Given that so many people are relying on pharmacies during this pandemic, the NPA would be reluctant to support any action that impairs patient care, but we understand the very strong feelings behind the idea of protests,” the NPA said.

“It’s a live conversation in some places. The fact that it’s talked about at all is a sign of how bad the situation has become.” 

“Money leaks from our pockets”

Whereas other sectors were offered grants for staying closed, Mr Lane noted, community pharmacies remained open throughout the pandemic and were now facing large debts.

“People can live without pizzas, but they can die without their pills and the healthcare we provide,” Mr Lane said.

“With each hour we stay open to provide vital services, the more money leaks from our pockets and hastens the demise of this country’s long-cherished pharmacy network. When will ministers finally make good on their commitment to meet the additional costs associated with coronavirus?”

Association of Independent Multiple Pharmacies (AIMP) CEO Dr Leyla Hannbeck said taking strike action during the COVID-19 pandemic would unnecessarily punish patients.

“While disappointed that the pharmacy network is consistently overlooked and that the sector does not get the recognition it so thoroughly deserves, our relationship with patients has seldom been better or more appreciated, as shown by our recent campaign in the media about COVID-19 vaccination service through community pharmacy,” she said.

“There seems little sense in taking action against patients at this time of national crisis, although we understand the frustration of those who make such calls.”

AIMp is instead encouraging the whole pharmacy sector to “join together in demonstrating our value and continuing to press for a swift and fair settlement of this outstanding issue, something which we were led to believe from the outset would occur and promised to us by the health secretary and most recently the Prime Minister”.

Almost half of contractors who responded to C+D’s Salary Survey 2020 indicated they would have to make staff cuts to be able to pay back the advance funding, while a large proportion said they would have to take out a loan.

Are you in favour of strike action over the government's inadequate pharmacy funding?

Stephen Fishwick, Manager

To be clear: The NPA has not said it supports strike action, or even predicted it.  We do feel it is right however to reflect the strong feelings of many of our members that the funding situation is unsustainable and needs urgent attention. NPA Comms Team

MrR Patel, Community pharmacist

I have always been kind and respectful to all the locums that have worked in my pharmacy. I do not understand where this anti contractor misinformed sentiments on this firum come from, and why so much negativity? If community pharmacy is not for you do you not want to consider other sectors? We are hard working and do not deserve such negativity. As for the NPA, they have a poor leadership and are now a weak organisation that gets walked all over by DH and NHS.

C A, Community pharmacist

The NPA has no negotiating powers, therefore it's unsurprising that they get walked all over by the DoH

Navid Kaleem, Community pharmacist

I am CONFUSED? - the government is not going to waive £350million advance payment to Pharmacy - instead of focusing on that, we are having a go at the NPA - clever!
                                                                             It doesn't surprise me the DOH think we are a joke! - we have too much disunity and hate in our profession. The Prime Minister said we are giving Pharmacy £350million EXTRA?

The Government has waived £13.4billion of NHS debt. It was pharmacy teams all over the country who had their doors open, sincerely helping, advising, supporting their communities, when GP's were not accessible & A&E's too busy. 

Some communities were hit harder than others, having to bury patients and loved ones. Is it not time we eat humble pie and unite - if not now then when?

Meera Sharma, Pharmacy owner/ Proprietor

Perhaps you should ask yourself why the DoH is treating pharmacy in this way in the first place, because of poor and out of touch leadership in this sector. Perhaps fellow contractors such as yourself should wake up and show some guts and challenge the NPA and  expect better representation for the money you pay them! They sit behind their desks and have no understanding of the frontline. They talk about pharmacy protests and strikes yet they know this is not right, that is what is not 'clever' and make us look bad in the eyes of everyone. Did they ask you if you wanted to protest and strike? Just because some contracturs demand better does not mean they are haters. We need to learn to hold poor leadership to account and expect better, value ourselves and others will start valuing us too, including DoH. 

Navid Kaleem, Community pharmacist

Meera as a fellow professional I respect your views and thank you for your efforts towards the covid pandemic.

I would humbly like to point out:

Up north we have a certain way of speaking - I was referring to infighting as not being "clever" and not productive.

'Hate' was in reference to the anti contractor sentiments in this forum. Seems everybody hates everybody else, Locum, Student, Manager, Contractor, Dispenser, Counter assistant, Deliver driver - I am suprised we are still amongst the most hard working and committed NHS professionals.

Everybody agree's more effective leadership is required from PSNC, NPA, RPS and I see the NPA is trying (I'm not on the NPA payroll but like to say things as I see it - that's the whole point of a forum).

I am in favour of collective protest (this doesnt mean strike / nobody wants patients to suffer) - not everybody can be a leader but I would give you my vote. A sensible decision needs to be made on what form the protest should take?

We need to send a message and an incompetent Government who has let so many people die needs to know we have had enough and we are P****d off!

We have showcased our worth over the last year - we have been undervalued, under funded and mistreated for far too long!

mark straughton, Pharmaceutical Adviser

Ok I'm I missing something. Pharmacy contractors received advanced funding to cope with additional pressures. What exactly?? Pharmacies have been open the same number of hours. Contractors have roughly been submitting the same number items each month. OTC sales, if anything, have increased because people are buying more in pharmcies which they would have bought in other shops which closed. MUR, NMS could be done on the phone rather than face to face. Even EHC could be done without a consultation room.

Please enlighten me

C A, Community pharmacist

GPs received extra funding
Hospitals received extra funding
Dentists received extra funding
Pharmacies got an advance

GPs closed their doors
Dentists closed their doors
Hospitals cancelled electives - so basically closed their doors to an extent
Pharmacies kept their doors open

GPs got PPE
Hospitals got PPE
Dentists got PPE
Pharmacies got told to buy their own PPE
(until they kicked up a fuss and were told they could have PPE, not commenting on the quality or quantity of PPE as I think everyone struggled with that).

But hey we are all one big NHS and we are all in it together right?

sunil maini, Community pharmacist

Typical comment from a pharmacist not on the front line.During lockdowns,due to a surge of patients ordering scripts early and panicking,I have had extra staff hours,including working late and on Sundays just to ensure we could ensure scripts were ready.This incurred overtime rates,at a premium to normal staff rates.Wake up and live in the real world,you desk bound coward!!Overall script numbers did not go up,they have averaged out.But it cost a lot more to meet expectations-so yes extra costs.While you were furlowed,we carried on working.

mark straughton, Pharmaceutical Adviser

This is exactly why the Government doesn't support pharmacy, and incidnetly why pharmacy will never progress in the PSNC negotiations. What arrogance!!

The 'real world' is that people have lost jobs, industries wiped out........but pharmacy staff have seen a surge in demand!! It doesn't correlate. Businesses which have seen a 90% in demand fall have business loans, which they to REPAY! What utter arrogance to expect an advanced payment to be written off.

Axed Locum, Locum pharmacist

What utter nonsence, There was a surge in demand which lasted no more than two weeks, and then flattened out, just as it did in the supermarkets. You also conveniently overlook the £750.00 per day extra payments made over the Easter and May bank holidays, for simply opening the doors for 2-3 hours. How much of that was passed on to the pharmacists and support staff.?? - Only a tiny fraction , if at all!!

The contractors do not deserve any ex- gratia payments, because they are greedy, and do not pass it on to the workers who generate the income for them.The NPA has a vested interest in their ransom demand for a "write-off"of the advance payment, because it will affect their own membership numbers and hence revenue.

The locums have faced a real hard squeeze for over 15 years, and its about time you greedy contractors recieved the same unpalatable medicine!!

As as aside, we have now entered into a world of e-commerce, and it has affected a lot of businesses and will also affect Pharmacy, and its time to face up to it, change and adapt.




C A, Community pharmacist

I worked a full day on Good Friday, pretty sure the £750 didn't go that far when pharmacies had to get staff in at time and a half or double time or last minute locums since we weren't given much notice.

Pharm Druggist, Community pharmacist

Axed, what you're after is basically is a profit share - something that is  obtainable if you fronted up the cold hard cash and invested in the ownership of a pharmacy contract. Ownership = take the risk and the rewards, the highs with the lows. As an employee/locum you have zero, and I mean zero, financial risk in terms of the pharmacy you are working at. Do I really have to explain that once you accept an employment contract for the day, that you are employed to be RP. Unless you have negotiated it, you have no right to a profit share? In reality some of us do benefit from a profit share in kind through bonuses. 

My issue with you is not the fact that you're fighting the corner of pharmacists and locum. My issue is not even the fact that you hate contractors. My issue is that you're peddling unworkable/illogical methods. You refuse to see/accept the dire financial state that pharmacy is in, because you see it as a twisted form of revenge against contractors, that your locum rate has dropped over the years... and of course you got axed by someone, which can't have been nice. 

If being a contractor is so lucrative why don't you do everyone a favour, go and prove it? There are plenty of other, far less stressful methods to get better return on investment.

Benie Locum, Locum pharmacist

So why not sell up? ** 'There are plent of other,  far less stressful methods to get better return on investment' **

You won't have to put up with locums and employees anymore.

Pharm Druggist, Community pharmacist

Why do you assume I'm a contractor? Purely because I disagree with you and axed on occasion and call you out on flawed logic? I'd hope any sensible person can pick arguments apart.

You're saying if you had a few hundred thousand lying around, you can't think of any better place to invest that money into??? 

I also work with great colleagues (and locums, shocker) they are the absolute least of my stresses in pharmacy. 

Benie Locum, Locum pharmacist

Sunil I am not arguing, however you behaviour is typical ie. because my view is not aligned with yours then I must go away and do something else. That seems to be what Doh is telling you contractors which is ironic is it not 

These are my observations and sometime experience: Working conditions and pay are very poor. Multiples mostly treat their staff deplorably. Look at boots and their shameful stance with PDA. In 2019. I think that tells you everything seeing as they're the standard bearer for community pharmacy. What a joke. 

Uma Patel, Community pharmacist

Obviously you have not worked in a dispensary lately. You are welcome to come to my pharmacy and spend some time to experience what it is like at the coal face

mark straughton, Pharmaceutical Adviser

Thank you. I have worked in a dispensary lately and I'm sure your dispensary is very busy. Forgive my rudeness here but what a useless and pointless comment.

Charlie Wu, Community pharmacist

Where do I start if you are that ignorant (and somehow come to the C&D website)? Long story short, queries, many queries, many many queries, many many many queries, many many many... many queries from patients, about meds supply, about their conditions, about COVID. Why us? Because they can't reach their GPs/nurses/consultants. NONE of these extra works was paid but I don't like to let my patients down. This is happening everywhere, not just in my pharmacy. I hope I have enlightened you. 

mark straughton, Pharmaceutical Adviser

Thank you. So you're suggesting that the surge in queries should lead to £370 mil advanced payment being written off. Are you for real? I assume there's been no staff redundancies and you've stayed open?

Perhaps I'll mention this to my friend who used to run a successful independent bakery which has now had to close due to the pandemic at the lost of 3 FTE jobs.

A.S. Singh, Community pharmacist

Mark you cannot compare a bakery to pharmacy. Secondly this £370m was taken from us in the first place since 2016 regardless of covid

Benie Locum, Locum pharmacist

But you won't get paid extra unless you're a contractor. None of it is share unequally or otherwise. 100% is kept at the top.

DavidJ J, Pharmacy owner/ Proprietor

We had a patient in pharmacy yesterday saying they had seen an article in the media about pharmacies going on strike. She asked us if that was the case and if she should start ordering her medicines online.  We had to reassure her that there was not going be a strike. She said she loves the team and our pharmacy but was worried how she would get her medicines if we went on strike. To NPA, you don't know the damage and confusion you are causing! You should resign. You do not represent pharmacy

Benie Locum, Locum pharmacist

I'm scratching my head as to how you're going to  achieve anything resembling a united protest when staff are treated so poorly. Pharmacists trained with utter disdain mostly, not to mention the pitiful salary. Dispenser and techs on little more than minimum wage for gods sake. 

M. Rx(n), Student

The cognitive dissonance stems from the decades of (some) Pharmacy Operators pretending they are royalty and above reproach.

Sunil Patel, Pharmacy owner/ Proprietor

Absolutely ridiculous and shameful the NPA going to media talking about pharmacy strikes when a) in reality it is never going to happen b) when we are in a pandemic, how popular are we going to be.  Hard to believe that Mr Lane has money leaking out of his pocket. NPA, at least bring spokespeople that know what they are talking about rather than fame seeking individuals.  All contractors should think about what value they get by being a member of an organisation that is so out of touch with reality. 

MrR Patel, Community pharmacist

Any 'protest' should be directed against the NPA. It is crazy the damage they are causing. We will be leaving the NPA membership this year. Those I know who have left the NPA seem to be doing better and are happier with their new insurance and membership arrangements and saved a lot too! NPA is not fit for purpose anymore, full stop.








sunil maini, Community pharmacist

Here in previous comments,we see how divided pharmacists are.For goodness sake,can you not try to show a united front!!funds coming into the profession will benefit all,not only contarctors,be they independents,multiples or multi nationals!!As for M.Rx(n) student,once you get into the real world,hopefully you will have a better understanding of how the world works!!

Benie Locum, Locum pharmacist

No my friend. Any funds will not benefit everyone. Employees and pharmacists see no change except more work. Dispensers et al will remain on little more than minimum wage for the privilege of threats and occasional assaults.

sunil maini, Community pharmacist

I shared all my £10,000 covid business grant amongst my staff,less the premium i paid for overtime worked.So find yourself a decent employer,or go and do another job.sick of your attitude


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