As England entered a four-week national lockdown, Jo Churchill wrote to community pharmacy, expressing her gratitude for the profession’s response to the pandemic.
A national pharmacy body reacts by saying that the sector needs more than words to keep going.
In a letter on November 5, Churchill, the undersecretary of state for prevention, public health and primary care, praised “all community pharmacy staff” for working hard “to support your communities” by ensuring that they had “continued access to their medicines and health advice”.
“You have done an incredible job on the medicine’s delivery service for shielded patients and you are central to the delivery of this year’s expanded flu vaccination programme,” she said in the letter, adding: “My ministerial colleagues and I remain hugely grateful for the efforts community pharmacy teams continue to make to support all of us.”
To find out what more her department could do to support community pharmacy teams, the minister said she was regularly talking to frontline pharmacy staff as well as national bodies for pharmacists and pharmacy technicians.
Acknowledging that it was going to be a “tough winter” in the midst of rising Covid-19 infections and further nationwide restrictions, she said that the country was “better prepared now” than during the first wave of the virus.
“You now have the experience of working in a Covid-secure environment, protecting your staff and patients and local business continuity plans are in place to help.
“The actions taken by the department and NHS England & NHS Improvement, and the changes made earlier this year to support your work, will also help us this winter.”
Churchill said the government relies on and trusts community pharmacies to provide medicines and health advice and support for patients.
“I know that you will rise to the challenge,” she concluded.
Pharmacies urgently require financial support: NPA
Meanwhile, reacting to the minister’s letter, a spokesman for National Pharmacy Association said: “Gratitude from a government minister is always something to welcome and we know that Jo Churchill is sincere in her praise for pharmacy teams.
“But pharmacies are now running on empty and they need more than words to keep them going.
“Pharmacies urgently require financial support from NHS England to keep the doors open for patients in this current lockdown and beyond.”