Ahead of today’s (March 3) Spring budget, the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) wrote to chancellor Rishi Sunak to intervene and ensure pharmacies will not be required to repay the £370 million COVID-19 loans.
However, Mr Sunak delivered his financial statement this afternoon with no mention of the sector.
Despite reportedly providing £63 billion for frontline health services during the pandemic, the government “has still not taken this opportunity to commit to paying pharmacies the £400m that they have spent in responding to COVID-19”, PSNC chief executive Simon Dukes said this afternoon (March 3).
“Nor have we had any signs that the NHS wishes to give pharmacy its fair share of the health service’s pandemic funds,” he stressed. “This is exasperating and disappointing.”
Pharmacies “must” have the costs they have incurred staying open during the pandemic and running NHS services “fully covered”, Mr Dukes added.
“PSNC cannot accept any less and we will continue to press this point."
CCA: “Chancellor has broken his promise”
Malcolm Harrison, chief executive of the Company Chemists’ Association (CCA) – which represents the large multiples and supermarket pharmacies – said that by ignoring the sector's plea in today’s budget Mr Sunak “has broken his promise to give NHS ‘whatever resources it needs’ to deal with coronavirus”.
At the same time, he has “let down community pharmacies who desperately need help to cover additional COVID costs”.
“Yet again, community pharmacies have been ignored despite keeping their doors open to deliver NHS care throughout the pandemic,” he said.
“They have had to make huge changes to how they work to ensure that their pharmacies remained open and were COVID safe throughout the year. They also dealt with significant increases in patient demand and shortages of staff due to illness and isolation.”
Mr Harrison repeated the warning that more pharmacies will close if the sector does not receive “fair funding”.
“It is of real concern to me that our members have needed to close branches during the pandemic when the public have needed healthcare on their high streets the most.”
NPA: “Pharmacies penalised”
National Pharmacy Association (NPA) chief executive Mark Lyonette said: “The continuation of financial assistance for parts of the economy that have been forced to close during lockdown is understandable.
“However, it highlights once again the lack of support for pharmacies, which have, in effect, been penalised for staying open,” he said.
“We continue to press for the COVID costs incurred by pharmacies, such as extra staffing at peak periods, to be repaid,” Mr Lyonette added.