Community pharmacy cannot financially cope with the pandemic

 

Alexander Stafford MP

 

Member of Parliament for Rother Valley

 

3rd April 2020

 

Dear Mr Stafford,

 

I am one of your constituents and a pharmacist.

 

I would like to bring to your attention the plight of community pharmacy. In 2016 the Department of Health announced its intention to impose drastic funding cuts as part of a plan to reduce the number of pharmacies by 25%. This was, and still is, straight financial attrition and has forced every pharmacy in the country to reduce staffing levels and reduce services in order to survive.

 

Hundreds have closed and others are on the brink of closure.

 

Consequently, the COVID-19 pandemic has arrived when community pharmacy is in the worse possible state to deal with the increased pressures. Despite this, the sector has risen to the occasion. When it’s been virtually impossible to visit or contact a GP, pharmacies have remained open, staff have worked extra hours and urgent deliveries have been made.

 

The workload has increased enormously, protective screens have had to be sourced and fitted, additional staff employed, extra stock begged, borrowed and obtained at over-Tariff prices, emergency medication supplied, fights between customers broken up and abuse from a small minority dealt with it’s been a nightmare.

 

At the same time, the bodies representing community pharmacy have pleaded with NHS England for increased resources to cover these additional costs and to ensure that pharmacies are able to pay their bills and remain in business.

 

On the 31 st March an extra £300m of funding was announced and we all breathed a sigh of relief. That is until we read the mall print. This is not additional funding it’s merely an advance payment on the money we would be due to later in the year. It’s a loan to prop up the sector until the worst of the pandemic is over when the advance will be reclaimed accelerating the closure of pharmacies to that magic “3,000 closures” that the DHSC and NHSE would like to see.

 

I urge you to take up our cause and fight for adequate remuneration for community pharmacies. The extra funding must be made permanent and not reclaimed. This pandemic has demonstrated already what an important part of the local community pharmacies are. There is far more that we can do, but not with inadequate funding.

 

Yours sincerely,

 

Martin Bennett MBE

 

 

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