The £370 million in advanced funding for pharmacies made available by The Department of Health and Social Care (DH) to help them meet challenges posed by COVID-19 is “nowhere near enough to keep [them] in business, let alone to allow the pharmacists to have a day off or even earn a living,” Lord Grade said in a debate in the House of Lords earlier this week (July 20)
“It just demonstrates that the department fails to understand why independent pharmacists are still in such grave peril,” he added.
Lord Grade was responding to a comment made by Lord Bethell, parliamentary under-secretary for health and social care, in which he highlighted that the government has “made available £370 million in advance payments to aid cash flow” in the sector, as well as funded the pandemic delivery service and increased drug reimbursement costs.
However, Lord Grade argued that this financial support is not enough to keep independent pharmacies afloat and warned that “when they fold, they will not be replaced”. Lord Bethell added that the government is “talking to the sector about additional funding for COVID-19 costs”.
Referring to community pharmacy teams as “frontline heroes”, Lord Grade urged Lord Bethell to meet with a delegation from the sector to “hear directly why their businesses continue to hang by a thread”.
Lord Bethell said he would would be “very pleased” to meet with a community pharmacy delegation to discuss the challenges they face.
Last week (July 13), pharmacy minister Jo Churchill said mass pharmacy closures “would not happen” on health secretary Matt Hancock’s “watch”.
During this week’s debate, Conservative peer Baroness Pidding asked what the government would do to “ensure” that pharmacies are able to offer the flu vaccine during the upcoming autumn and winter.
Lord Bethell said the DH is “talking to the sector about the role community pharmacies can play in the greater administration of vaccines, both of flu and of COVID-19 ”.
“We very much want to see an enhanced role for pharmacies in the delivery of healthcare,” he added.
Lord Bethell also said the government supports initiatives that see pharmacies play an “enhanced role” in the community, such as being commissioned to provide tests for blood pressure or atrial fibrillation.
A transcript of the full debate is available on Hansard.