Simon Dukes, PSNC chief executive.

The government has agreed to release cash advance of £300 million to help pharmacies mitigate cashflow issues that have arisen due to the coronavirus crisis.

The Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) said on Tuesday (March 31) that contractors would receive the money in two instalments as ‘advance payments’ which would be reconciled later.

The first amount, worth £200 million, will be paid by April 1 or shortly after as an ‘uplift’ to the contractors’ January payments, and the second instalment, of £100 million, will be made available by the end of April, or in early May, along with payment for usual work carried out in February.

The NHS Business Services Authority has calculated that the first instalment will give an average pharmacy contractor around 26 pe cent ‘uplift’ in their April payment, while the second will allow them about 13 per cent uplift in May.

‘This funding alone is not enough’

PSNC chief executive Simon Dukes said he had told the government that the sector was at a “critical point, with pharmacy teams and businesses under extreme pressure and many pharmacies now not financially viable.”

“This funding gesture alone is not enough,” he stressed, adding: “We have informed HM Government that it simply will not be sufficient to help many contractors to meet the rapidly increasing costs that they are facing as a result of this pandemic.”

PSNC said it was in ongoing discussions with the government about the need for more funding for the sector to recognise increasing costs due to increasing prescription numbers, staffing costs, one-off costs and rising drugs bills, all resulting from the ongoing crisis.

“We are seeking a long-term increase to total pharmacy funding in recognition of the unprecedented challenges that pharmacies are already facing as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic,” it added.

Welcome step in right direction, says RPS

Responding to the news, Chair of RPS in England Professor Claire Anderson said it was “a welcome step in right direction for pharmacies facing immediate cash flow concerns,” but added that “this should have come from new money.”

Calling for “fair funding in the longer-term to help pharmacies keep their doors open to the public,” she argued that with rising costs, this would not be enough.

“Alongside this we are seeking further clarifications on how government protects all pharmacy teams, including pharmacists and support staff, to have appropriate access to PPE and timely testing for COVID-19 so they can continue looking after patients,” she added.

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