News

HDA UK Media and Political Bulletin – 08 March 2021

Media Summary

Treasury’s COVID-19 loan demand ‘putting pharmacies in England at risk’
The Guardian, Denis Campbell, 08 March

The Guardian reports that hundreds of pharmacies in England could be forced to close, with the Treasury insisting they pay back much of the £370m allocated last year in emergency loans to help them stay open during the pandemic.

Ministers have been warned that most closures will occur in poorer areas and will hamper both the COVID-19 vaccination rollout and the annual winter flu jab campaign.

“The Government’s decision to demand repayment of the COVID-19 funding given to pharmacies will put many at risk of closure,” said Simon Dukes, Chief Executive of the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee. “Sadly, most of these closures are likely to hit hardest the areas of the country where pharmacies are most needed,” he added.

Dukes wrote to the Chancellor ahead of his Budget speech last week and asked for the £370m to be written off. A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said discussions with the pharmacy sector were ongoing.

 

Parliamentary Coverage

Westminster Hall to hold a general debate on community pharmacies and the effect of the COVID-19 outbreak
Backbench Business Committee, 05 March

On Thursday 11th March, MPs will hold a general debate on community pharmacies and the effect of the COVID-19 outbreak in Westminster Hall.

Prior to the debate, the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee has urged MPs to contribute, and is encouraging Local Pharmaceutical Committees and contractors to write to their MPs asking them to join the debate.

Once made available, a full transcript of the debate will be provided.

Scottish Parliament – Written Answer, 04 March

Richard Leonard (Central Scotland, Scottish Labour): To ask the Scottish Government whether all staff who work within community pharmacies will be prioritised for a COVID-19 vaccination.

Jeane Freeman (SNP, Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley): Some key workers, such as pharmacists and pharmacy technicians, are included in the top priority groups, and already eligible for a vaccine, but other pharmacy staff including drivers and medical home care delivery drivers who deliver medication and equipment to patient homes are not included in the priority list.

The decision is to not prioritise other pharmacy staff for the following reasons:

  • Criticality of service is not an indication for priority vaccination because clinical risk is the overriding concern. This is influenced most greatly by age, not occupation.
  • Currently there is no sectoral prioritisation of any workers other than frontline health and social care workers.
  • Individual staff will be called forward for vaccination according to their position on the priority list, if they are eligible within the JCVI Cohorts.

Our prioritisation decisions have been, and will continue to be, informed and guided by the independent expert advice from the JCVI.

 

Full Coverage

Treasury’s COVID-19 loan demand ‘putting pharmacies in England at risk’
The Guardian, Denis Campbell, 08 March

Hundreds of pharmacies in England could be forced to close because the Treasury is demanding repayment of emergency loans it gave them to help stay open during the Coronavirus pandemic.

Ministers have been warned that most closures will occur in poorer areas and will hamper both the COVID-19 vaccination rollout and the annual winter flu jab campaign.

Pharmacy leaders claim that thousands of England’s 11,500 pharmacies are at risk because the Treasury is insisting that they pay back much of the £370m it gave them last year.

“The government’s decision to demand repayment of the COVID-19 funding given to pharmacies will put many at risk of closure,” said Simon Dukes, Chief Executive of the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee.

“Sadly most of these closures are likely to hit hardest the areas of the country where pharmacies are most needed. We hope Rishi Sunak will intervene urgently,” he added.

Dukes wrote to the chancellor before his budget last week and asked for the £370m to be written off. However, his request appears to have been rebuffed.

In his letter to Sunak, Dukes said: “Last year, you said the NHS would get whatever resources it needs to deal with the pandemic. However, we understand from Treasury officials that this is not the case for NHS pharmacies.” The chancellor did not address the issue in his statement last Wednesday.

Pharmacies have used the money to make their premises safe and secure to stay open during the pandemic, with screens, personal protective equipment and cleaning to protect staff.

The Health Minister, Jo Churchill, lauded the key role pharmacies play in dispensing medicines and health advice when she announced the first tranche of £300m funding for pharmacies in April. “Every day community pharmacies carry out critical work to protect the health of the public and support the wider NHS. This is even more important now as we face this unprecedented time,” she said.

“We hugely value the role of the community pharmacy, which is why we are backing them with £300m of advanced funding to support them as we continue to assess the full additional impact of coronavirus on community pharmacy,” she added.

Ministers made further loans of £50m and £30m, bringing the total to £370m.

Scores of pharmacies are administering COVID vaccines, and during 2019-20 pharmacy teams delivered 1.5m of the 14.5m flu jabs administered in the UK.

The Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said discussions with the pharmacy sector were ongoing. They said: “Community pharmacies make a vital contribution to the NHS, and, throughout the pandemic, they have gone above and beyond to serve their communities, including in the vaccination rollout.

“To help them tackle COVID-19 we made £370m available for pharmacies in advance payments, on top of a deal committing nearly £13bn to the sector by 2024. Further funding, for costs incurred during the pandemic, is being discussed with the sector.”

HDA UK Media and Political Bulletin – 08 March 2021

From Factory to Pharmacy

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