Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak speaks during a budget statement at the House of Commons in London on March 3, 2021 (Photo: UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor/Handout via REUTERS)

National pharmacy bodies and other industry stakeholders have expressed their deepest disappointment with the new budget as it remained silent on pharmacies’ Covid-19 costs despite widespread calls for more funding to avert further pharmacy closures.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced his budget 2021 on Wednesday (March 3) which had a an additional £1.6bn investment in the Covid-19 vaccination rollout.

Sunak’s measures also include a corporation tax freeze for businesses with profits under £50,000, and tax benefit refunds for loss-making companies.

Commenting on the Sunak’s latest measures the National Pharmacy Association chief executive Mark Lyonette said: “The continuation of financial assistance for parts of the economy that have been forced to close during lockdown is understandable.

“However, it highlights once again the lack of support for pharmacies, which have, in effect, been penalised for staying open. We continue to press for the Covid costs incurred by pharmacies, such as extra staffing at peak periods, to be repaid.”

The Company Chemists Association said that the Treasury has let down community pharmacies who desperately need help to cover additional Covid costs.

Malcolm Harrison, chief executive of the CCA, said: “Yet again, community pharmacies have been ignored despite keeping their doors open to deliver NHS care throughout the pandemic. They have had to make huge changes to how they work to ensure that their pharmacies remained open and were Covid safe throughout the year. They also dealt with significant increases in patient demand and shortages of staff due to illness and isolation.”

Harrison urged the government for its quick intervention to support pharmacies. “Closures and financial cutbacks will mean more reductions in pharmacy services, at a time when primary care is already overstretched. We call on the government to do the right thing and provide this sector with the funding it so urgently needs.”

The Royal Pharmaceutical Society has also called for more funding to support pharmacy education and training. It also urged for quick measures to ensure that the whole sector is functioning with proper funding.

Chair of the RPS in England Professor Claire Anderson said: “Changes to pharmacy education and training urgently need to be backed with the appropriate resources. As the chancellor mentioned, it’s important that we invest in our health and life sciences sectors to ensure the UK remains an attractive place for the world’s best talent to come to and work.

“With continued pressures on frontline pharmacists, we need action following the prime minister’s recent commitment to reimbursing community pharmacies in England for additional costs they’ve faced during Covid-19.”

Last year Sunak had assured that the NHS would get whatever resources it needs to deal with Covid.

To date it has cost over £400m for community pharmacies to keep their doors open and patients safe during the pandemic. However, no support has been given from government or the NHS barring loans given in three instalments which will all be recouped at a later date.

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