The UK Government budget announcement on Wednesday heralded dramatic levels of investment in the UK economy.
The budget was announced in the context of fast-moving global events not least the COVID-19 outbreak.
Health-related organisations have broadly welcomed the uplift in investment particularly in the healthcare workforce but some have raised concern around how the money will be spent in the health sector.
Most notably in the pharmacy sector was the fact that the National Pharmacy Association specifically called for bespoke support to help community pharmacy through the COVID-19 outbreak.
UK Government Officials commented:
“The Budget takes place against the backdrop of the global outbreak of COVID-19. The fundamentals of the UK economy are strong and the government is well prepared to protect people’s health and support their economic security throughout this period of temporary economic disruption. The Budget sets out a plan to support public services, individuals and businesses that may be affected by COVID-19.”
Referring specifically to the COVID-19 outbreak the Government has said:
“The recent COVID-19 outbreak is creating short-term uncertainty. The Office for Budget Responsibility’s (OBR) economy and fiscal forecast does not reflect the now global spread of COVID-19 nor an outbreak in the UK. The OBR notes that the spread and impact of a COVID-19 outbreak clearly represents a downside risk to the forecast, but the scale is highly uncertain and the economic impact is likely to be temporary.”
“Within this, the government will increase funding for its number one spending priority: the NHS. Compared to 2018-19, NHS England will receive a cash increase of £34 billion a year by 2024. In addition, the Budget commits over £6 billion of new funding over this Parliament, including to create 50 million more GP surgery appointments per year, ensure there are 50,000 more nurses and fund wider commitments on hospital car parking and support for people with learning disabilities and autism. The Budget also sets out action to ensure that pensions tax rules do not deter doctors from taking on additional shifts.”
Commenting on the 2020 Budget announcement, Claire Anderson, Chair of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society English Pharmacy Board said:
“I recognise the impact that COVID-19 will have on the NHS, pharmacists and other frontline staff – all of whom will be working hard to support patient care.
“I welcome the Government’s commitment that the health service will get what it needs to respond to COVID-19 and wider measures such as on Statutory Sick Pay and business rates relief. Pharmacies may be worried about additional pressures in the coming months, including around media reports of potential medicine price rises, and the Government should be able to offer support where needed.
“It’s great to see the Government’s continued support for the health service and I welcome funding to recruit 6,000 more professionals in primary care, including pharmacists, to help meet growing demand.
“This will also need to extend to education and training, including Foundation training for pharmacists if we’re going to develop the workforce able to deliver the NHS Long-Term Plan for patients. It will be vital that the forthcoming NHS People Plan sets out a clear roadmap to make this happen.”
Responding to the Budget, Professor Martin Marshall from the Royal College of General Practitioners said:
“We welcome the Government’s urgent action to support the NHS in these particularly challenging times – and it is essential that a significant share of the emergency funding is made available for GPs on the frontline of patient care.
“We need this urgently to ensure that all GPs and their teams have the appropriate PPE protection for face-to-face consultations, as well as the high-quality technology that will enable remote consultations to take place.
“We know that half of GP premises are not fit for purpose so, in the longer term, the Chancellor needs to invest in GP surgeries, supporting them to provide for the 6,000 additional GPs and 26,000 additional staff that the Government has promised to ensure that patients can get appointments more quickly and that they receive the quality care they need and deserve. We look forward to the NHS People Plan being released in the near future, setting out how these ambitious recruitment targets will be met to ensure that our service has the workforce it needs now and in the future.
“We should pay tribute to the GPs and their teams who, in the face of the Covid-19 crisis, are going above and beyond to deliver the ‘business as usual’ of seeing over 1 million patients a day.”
The NPA has called for increased funding to specifically support community pharmacy:
The NPA has said that to mitigate against the impact of coronavirus (COVID-19) on pharmacy businesses, the National Pharmacy Association is asking the government to consider a series of urgent contingency measures.
NPA chief executive, Mark Lyonette, said:
“In addition to meeting requests for advice about preventing coronavirus, pharmacists are carrying on with their everyday tasks of treating minor illnesses, helping people to manage long term medical conditions, safely dispensing prescriptions and providing urgent care. Community pharmacy is on the NHS frontline and absorbs pressure that would otherwise fall on other parts of the system.
“As always, community pharmacy is playing an invaluable role by diverting routine activity away from other parts of the health service facing extra workload. Therefore it is very important that pharmacies are supported during this period, to stay operational as businesses and effective as frontline providers of patient care.”