News

HDA UK Media and Political Bulletin – 24 May 2021

Media Summary

Covid loan demands may close chemists
Andrew Gregory, The Times, 23 May 2021

The Times reports that thousands of pharmacies are facing closure because the Treasury is asking them to repay the emergency cash given to them to remain open during the pandemic.

Industry leaders warned that the NHS vaccine rollout and autumn flu jab drive will be at risk if high street pharmacies administering them are forced to shut.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak was urged by pharmacists and MPs to stand by his pledge to give the NHS “whatever it needs” to get through the Covid crisis.

Pharmacies were given £370 million in loans last year to spend on PPE, extra staff, social distancing and security measures to allow them to continue seeing patients throughout the pandemic.

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said community pharmacies had “gone above and beyond” in their response to Covid-19 and the vaccine programme.

 

 Parliamentary Coverage

House of Commons – Written Question, 17 May 2021

Louise Haigh (Labour): To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and Minister for the Cabinet Office, on how many occasions Lord Frost has met with representatives of the UK pharmaceuticals industry to discuss the ongoing and future supply of medicines to Northern Ireland.

House of Commons – Written Answer, 20 May 2021

Penny Mordaunt (Conservative): The government publishes details of ministers’ meetings with external organisations. Transparency returns for Cabinet Office Ministers are published regularly, and can be found here(opens in a new tab).

Lord Frost and his team are in regular contact with representatives of the UK pharmaceutical industry. We continue to work closely with all those involved in the health care system, suppliers, industry, and the Northern Ireland Executive to put in place robust measures to help ensure the continued supply of medicines and medical products to Northern Ireland.

House of Commons – Written Question, 11 May 2021
Stephen Farry (Alliance): To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, what discussions his Department has had with relevant stakeholders moving medical devices from Great Britain to Northern Ireland on providing clear guidelines to assist compliance with the EU Medical Devices Regulation.

House of Commons – Written Answer, 20 May 2021
Edward Argar (Conservative): The Government is committed to helping ensure there is no disruption to the supply of medical devices into Northern Ireland. The Department of Health and Social Care, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) and the Department of Health in Northern Ireland have been working closely with industry to support them in their preparations to comply with the European Union Medical Device Regulation (MDR), which will come into effect in Northern Ireland from 26 May this year.

The Government is not seeking any mitigations from the European Commission regarding the MDR. Following feedback from industry stakeholders and in recognition that guidance from the EU is pending, on 5 March 2021 the MHRA published guidance on importation requirements to assist with compliance in moving medical devices from Great Britain to Northern Ireland. On 10 May 2021, the MHRA wrote to industry to provide further support and clarification on the implementation of the MDR in Northern Ireland.

House of Lords, Lords Select Committee Press Release, 21 May 2021
Call for evidence on the operation of the Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland

The Sub-Committee on the Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland has published a call for evidence, inviting interested individuals and organisations to submit their views on the operation of the Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland.

The Sub-Committee launched an introductory inquiry into the operation of the Protocol in April 2021 and has already taken oral evidence from key experts and business representatives. The inquiry wishes to examine the current situation in Northern Ireland regarding the Protocol, the Protocol’s operation, the continuing dialogue between the UK and the EU regarding the Protocol in the Withdrawal Agreement Joint Committee and the governance bodies reporting to it.

The Sub-Committee’s call for evidence will examine issues including the impact of the Protocol, and of UK withdrawal more broadly, on trade flows between Great Britain, Northern Ireland and Ireland, and the rest of the EU. It will also explore the impact of the Protocol and whether there is a viable alternative to the Protocol.

Full Coverage

Covid loan demands may close chemists
Andrew Gregory, The Times, 23 May 2021

Thousands of pharmacies are facing closure because the Treasury is insisting they repay emergency cash that it gave them to help stay open during the pandemic.

The NHS vaccine rollout and autumn flu jab drive will be at risk if high street pharmacies giving them out are forced to shut, industry leaders warned this weekend.

Rishi Sunak, the chancellor, was urged by pharmacists as well as dozens of MPs and peers last night to stand by his pledge to give the NHS “whatever it needs” to get through the Covid crisis.

Pharmacies were handed £370 million last year to ensure their premises were Covid-secure. The loans were spent on PPE, extra staff, social distancing and security measures to allow them to continue seeing patients throughout the pandemic.

New industry figures show the total cost of keeping pharmacies open eventually rose to £450 million but the Treasury is refusing to back down from its decision to claw back the £370 million. Industry leaders said the terms of the original loans were vague and they had hoped the government would “see sense”.

Simon Dukes, chief executive of the pharmaceutical services negotiating committee, said: “Pharmacy teams have never worked harder than in the past year, and they have never been relied on more by patients and the rest of the NHS. And this hasn’t stopped — pharmacies are still helping the Covid-19 vaccination programme and they’re now a key player in the provision of NHS Covid tests. Why the government would reward them for their loyalty by putting their livelihoods at risk is a question I don’t have an answer to.”

Local pharmacies are independent businesses offering services to the NHS. Dukes wrote to Sunak before his budget in March and asked for the £370 million to be written off. The request has been rebuffed.

Dukes warned that chemists would close if forced to hand back the Covid cash. He said they had adapted to the virus under the belief that their costs would be covered.

“We’ve been negotiating on Covid costs since July last year, and the feet-dragging by [the] Treasury is scandalous,” Dukes said last night. He said pharmacies “need to be treated as the critical healthcare providers that they are”.

This weekend dozens of MPs and peers from all parties waded into the row by writing to Sunak and Matt Hancock, the health secretary, urging them to deliver a “more sustainable” long-term funding solution.

The government has spent billions of pounds helping the NHS and other public services to tackle the virus and now faces the enormous challenge of trying to balance the books. But pharmacy leaders warn that even chemists that manage to stay afloat if forced to pay back the cash will still have to take drastic steps such as cutting staff or stock levels, and stopping unpaid services such as the delivery of items to patients’ homes, which could leave patients waiting much longer to receive vital medicines.

Jackie Doyle-Price, a former Tory health minister and chairwoman of the all-party pharmacy group, said: “We owe pharmacies a debt of gratitude. So we are asking the government and NHS leaders to go beyond warm words and deliver fairer funding for our pharmacies.”

The Department of Health and Social Care said community pharmacies had “gone above and beyond” in their response to Covid-19 and the vaccine programme.

A spokesman said: “To help them tackle this global pandemic we have made £370 million available in advance payments to support pharmacies in maintaining medicine supplies and providing health advice. Discussions are ongoing with the pharmaceutical services negotiating committee about reimbursement of Covid-19 costs incurred by community pharmacies and repayment of the £370 million.”

HDA UK Media and Political Bulletin – 24 May 2021

From Factory to Pharmacy

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