To prevent widespread closures of local pharmacies, parliamentarians led by chair of the All-Party Pharmacy Group (APPG) Jackie Doyle-Price MP have urged ministers to deliver ‘fairer funding’ for the sector.
A cross-party letter signed by over 30 parliamentarians states, “pharmacies adapted, innovated and stretched themselves to the limit to keep their doors open throughout the pandemic”, adding, “this has not come without cost”.
The letter calling on the chancellor and the health secretary stressed to the need to ease the mounting financial pressures on vital pharmacy services as part the wider NHS funding settlement.
The Group has urged policy makers to recognise pharmacy as a core part of the NHS family, warning that too often they are being made to feel like “glorified retailers”.
While many in the pharmacy sector have called for the £370M advanced payments to be turned into a grant, the parliamentarians are focused on achieving a more sustainable long-term solution for pharmacy funding. The aim is to help unleash the huge potential of pharmacy and deliver better primary care.
Figures from the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) show that community pharmacists dispense 1 billion prescription items and deliver healthcare advice at a rate of 48 million consultations a year. This saves the NHS nearly half a million GP appointments and 57,000 A&E visits every single week.
The coronavirus pandemic has proved that pharmacists are highly skilled medical professionals and can be relied upon. It has shone a light on the value of pharmacies.
Ongoing financial pressure felt by pharmacies was highlighted in an EY report published in September 2020. It concluded that the community pharmacy network in England is “unsustainable under the current financial framework” and projected that by the year 2024 72 per cent of community pharmacies will be in deficit.
Chair of the APPG, Jackie Doyle-Price MP, said: “Our local pharmacies responded heroically to the challenges of the pandemic. They continued to keep their doors open to patients throughout and maintained access to medicines and face-to-face healthcare advice.”
She added: “We owe pharmacies a debt of gratitude. Yet, the huge financial pressures they face could force many to close their doors for good.”
She claimed that the prime minister and the health secretary have been clear in their ‘thanks for pharmacies.’
Hence the government and NHS leaders are asked to go beyond ‘warm words’ and deliver fairer funding for the pharmacies, she said, concluding: “Only with a more sustainable financial footing can we unlock the potential demonstrated by pharmacy teams to contribute even more.”