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Pharmacies are ‘at breaking point’, ex health minister warns public

Jackie Doyle-Price: Pharmacy teams are “high street heroes”. Picture credit: UK Parliament
Jackie Doyle-Price: Pharmacy teams are “high street heroes”. Picture credit: UK Parliament

Former health minister Jackie Doyle-Price has warned that pharmacies are “at breaking point” and that the pressure on them is “immense” in a blog for a national newspaper.

“With millions of Britons currently unable to access a GP surgery, many have turned to their high street chemist for help,” Ms Doyle-Price – who was health minister between June 2017 and July 2019 – wrote in her opinion piece for The Telegraph last week (April 12).

She argued that the sector “is in crisis” due to a combination of factors, including higher wholesaler bills, “increased cost of staffing [and] providing huge numbers of free deliveries”, and the costs pharmacy contractors have faced in “buying and installing safety equipment”.

“The greatest threat”

Ms Doyle-Price argued that “the greatest threat” facing British pharmacies is economic.

Pharmacists in England have told Ms Doyle-Price they “dread” the time when they will be asked to replay the £300 million advance payment that was announced last month, and believe it could force “hundreds, if not thousands” to close, she said

“[Pharmacists] are clear that greater support over the medium to long term will also be needed, in the form of a special payment to cover the costs incurred in the fight against COVID-19,” Ms Doyle-Price added.

Personal safety

Ms Doyle-Price also addressed that pharmacies are struggling to source personal protective equipment (PPE) “and report that the government’s PPE hotline considers them ‘low risk’”. She claimed it has gone so far that some pharmacists have been forced to order face masks on eBay.

Ms Doyle-Price also highlighted that “there have been hundreds of cases of verbal abuse and incidents where the police have been called”, which adds to the “stress and worry of keeping pharmacies open”.

Ms Doyle-Price praised pharmacy teams for “putting themselves at grave risk every day to help keep us healthy”. Referring to pharmacy teams as “high street heroes”, she said that without them “many local communities would crumble”.

However, she added that it is important to recognise that pharmacies “are at breaking point and urgently provide them with the PPE they need to continue their work on the front line, engage with local pharmacies… and reassure them that a sustainable rescue package is on the horizon that will secure pharmacies’ futures”.

What do you make of Ms Doyle-Price's blog?

Industry Pharmacist, Head/Senior Manager

Doesn't what party are in power... They're all the same. It's all about image and point scoring.

Soon-To-Be Ex-Pharmacist, Superintendent Pharmacist

The simple fact is that pharmacies are already broken and have been for a long time. It's only because we (not me for much longer) - and I include all pharmacy staff in this -  work so ridiculously hard and for so little reward that the sector hasn't already collapsed completely. When we go the way of Woolworths, people will realise what they had.

SIMON MEDLEY, Community pharmacist

Ha - beat me too it - she wins the " massive lack of self awareness award for the day " on behalf of Tory party members / supporters everywhere .  Wonder how she voted in the parliamentary debate on pharmacy cuts

Stephen Walsh, Community pharmacist

Probably the same way she did for the nurse's pay rise in 2017 Si.

Stephen Walsh, Community pharmacist

With all due respect, the greatest threat to English pharmacies is the Tory government.

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