Pharmacy minister Jo Churchill has confirmed that additional costs incurred by community pharmacy contractors as a result of Covid-19 are being “actively discussed” with the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee.
This came ahead of an NHS webinar on Thursday night in which it was indicated that the government was considering writing off the £370 million advance payment which was made available to address contractors’ cash flow pressures caused by the pandemic.
In a pre-recorded video message delivered at the National Pharmacy Association winter conference on Thursday (Nov 12), Churchill acknowledged that funding was “of acute concern to community pharmacy” and added that the government was “carefully considering” other representations on how to “further support” community pharmacy.
Minister Churchill also praised community pharmacy teams for their “outstanding” work during the coronavirus pandemic. “It bears repeating that the outstanding effort of community pharmacies during a pandemic – staying open, dispensing medicines, providing health advice and supporting local communities, being there when everyone needed you, community pharmacy teams are performing an incredible job on the frontline during these unprecedented times.”
Acknowledging that implementation of new pharmacy services has been delayed due to the pandemic, the minister said her department has re-prioritised pharmacy services that support the NHS in its fight against Covid-19. She pointed in particular to GP referrals into the ongoing Community Pharmacist Consultation Service and the Discharge Medicines Service which is being introduced in January.
Noting that not all pharmacies will be directly commissioned to deliver COVID-19 vaccinations, she urged contractors to talk to pharmacy Primary Care Network leads, “so that GPs and community pharmacists can team up for the vaccination programme”.
Commenting on the minister’s address, NPA chief executive, Mark Lyonette, said: “It is good to have Jo Churchill at an NPA conference, which follows Matt Hancock’s appearance at our earlier event.
“The entire ministerial team at DHSC, including the Health Secretary, have a genuine regard for our sector and this is the foundation upon which we continue to press for meaningful action on funding. Substantial additional resources are needed urgently, to keep vital pharmacy services going.”