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‘COVID-19 could be devastating for pharmacies without government help’

“Medicines prices have spiralled out of control”

The government must take action to ensure community pharmacies survive the COVID-19 pandemic, says contractor Stuart Gale

The industry can’t take another hit. We have no fat left in the system. Pharmacies are private businesses and they simply won’t be able to survive this next crisis unless something drastic is done to protect them.

We need the government to step in and say that it will take action to protect community pharmacy amid the COVID-19 pandemic. We have already seen some movement from the Competition and Markets Authority in relation to retailers who were seen to be profiteering, but it must go further than that. We need to see the same strong position in response to wholesalers.

Medicines prices have spiralled out of control. At the beginning of March, paracetamol tablets were selling at 80p for 100 tablets. Two weeks later, the price had risen to £4.97 for the same product.

Pharmacies have been instructed to set up an isolation room on site, for people visiting the pharmacy who are suspected of having COVID-19. No additional funding has been provided for this. And what if a patient does come in who may have the virus? With symptoms akin to the common cold, how are we to manage them effectively?

Colds and coughs are the norm in our line of work. If every pharmacy in the country were to shut down in response to a patient entering the premises with symptoms of a cold or a cough, the entire infrastructure would collapse.

Pharmacies are on the frontline in the battle to contain COVID-19. Patients need to understand how to manage their symptoms without going into a pharmacy. The internet has a valuable role to play in this crisis. Pharmacy teams can provide essential advice on their websites or over the phone to those who are being asked to self-isolate.

The public needs clear instructions, such as:

  • Manage existing conditions carefully by taking your regular medication
  • Get your flu jab if you haven’t already
  • Don’t go into a pharmacy if you are exhibiting symptoms or have been in contact with someone who is
  • Use legitimate online pharmacies for your medical needs.

While the government is taking proactive steps, it is not going far enough. Just look at the recent rationing that has been put in place by retailers, driven by people stockpiling, despite all the advice against doing so.

Without adequate financial and logistical support, this crisis will be potentially devastating for surviving bricks-and-mortar businesses. The implications are clear. Without community pharmacies, more patients will revert to using other parts of the NHS for the treatment of minor ailments, putting even more pressure on a service that is already at breaking point. We need help now to protect the long-term future of our community pharmacies.

Stuart Gale owns the Frost Pharmacy Group in Oxford and Oxford Online Pharmacy

5 Comments

Benie I, Locum pharmacist

Maybe you should enlist the GPhC. They seem very concerned with driving down locum rates so perhaps they can assist getting contractor funding increased. Confusing as I thought their remit was  public safety but I suppose these are unusual times.

 

N patel , Non Pharmacist Branch Manager

PS NOTE THAT PHARMACIES HAVE TO OPEN ON GOOD FRIDAY AND EASTER MONDAY.... PSNC HAVE NOT AGREED ANY EXTRA PAYMENT YET BUT ARE HOPING FINGERS CROSSED ETC THAT CONTRACTORS WILL BE PAID  MEANWHILE LOOK AT WHAT OUR HARD WORKING GPS HAVE BEEN PROMISED.....Additional funding of £15 million will be provided to GP practices to help ... funding is intended to allow practices to remain open on Good Friday  ....y... GP practices will receive automatic payment for certain 2019/20 QOF targets.      THEY HAVE GUARANTEED FUNDING... NOTHING PROMISED FOR CP

N patel , Non Pharmacist Branch Manager

DODO PHARMACIST....REALLY WELL PUT.. THIS IS ONLY THE START OF IT ....FOR YEARS AIDED BY THE INCOMPETENT PSNC AND ITS LACKEYS COMMUNITY PHARMACY ESPECIALLY THE INDEPENDENTS HAVE BEEN SIDELINED IN MORE WAYS THAN ONE ....IT REALLY IS NOIT WORTH IT DISPENSING AT A LOSS TO A PUBLC THAT  REALLY SEES US AS MERE SHOPKEEPERS.......WHAT ARE THE CHANCES THAT WHEN ALL THIS C..P IS OVER THE PHARMACY ARE VERY CONVINIENTLY FORGOTTEN AND THE PLATITIDES HEAPED UPON US ARE NOT CONVERTED INTO ANY FINANCIAL ADVANTAGE DESPITE ALL THE BRAVERY AND COURAGE SHOWN BY OUR COLLEAGUES IN HE PROFESSION.....GOOD LUCK ALL AND STAY SAFE

locum norfolk, Locum pharmacist

Powers that be dont want pharmacy in its current form. Nothing new, unfortunately. They will get their way, they always do...

Dodo pharmacist, Community pharmacist

If something is not done soon to financially support pharmacies then there will be many closures. When medicine shortages start to worsen, and they will due to the India lock down, it will be intolerable trying to operate a community pharmacy. The disgraceful way that NHS England have treated us both before and during this crisis beggars belief. Many owners, myself included, are already considering whether it really is worth all the effort and risk, both to our health and financially to run a community pharmacy. If things do not improve soon, I will be closing the doors to my pharmacy and walking away. It is just not worth it any more.

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