By Herbert Soden

Spiralling costs, increased demand and shortage of personal protective equipment are among a raft of issues leaving pharmacists struggling against the tide of the coronavirus pandemic.

Anita Burdon and her husband Mark run the Burdon Pharmacy Group which has five branches across the North East.

She says central government are taking advantage of pharmacists and have so far failed to provide personal protective equipment or help towards rising delivery costs.

She said: “We have totally inadequate PPE and government promised and promised we would get some.

“We have got to look after our staff and we have not got anything from government.”

The pharmacy group, which has branches in Morpeth, Amble, Jarrow,  Whickham, and Lanchester,  has had to make its six part-time drivers full-time, doubling its wage bill for delivery staff.

Burdon continued: “The NHS said they would pay us for home deliveries but it hasn’t come to fruition.

“We don’t charge for deliveries and offer that service so that we can help the vulnerable stay at home.

“Our Amble pharmacy went from doing 50 deliveries to 150 in one day.

“I feel like they are taking advantage of us as a caring and  compassionate profession.”

She said there is a shortage of vital medicines such as inhalers and that people who can’t get face to face appointments with their GPs are turning to pharmacies for advice.

She said: “We would never say no to somebody, that goes back to our caring and compassionate profession.

“Someone came into one of our pharmacies with her son, greenhouse glass had fell on his shoulder.”

Mrs Burdon paid tribute to her staff who she said have “stepped up” to the challenge of the pandemic.

She added: “I can’t say enough about my staff they have really stepped up to the mark.”

NHS England has written to pharmacists saying they will be paid to provide a home delivery service to  people at high risk of complications from Covid-19 who are advised to isolate at home for 12 weeks and meet the “shielding” criteria.

A statement said: “A monthly payment will be made for the period this service is commissioned recognising the administration required in assessing eligibility of patients, supporting the alternative of using volunteers to deliver prescription items and associated processing and advice.”

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said it is doing all it can to make sure patients can get medicines.

They added: “We know how distressing shortages can be for patients and we are doing everything we can to ensure patients continue to access safe and effective medicines.

“We are aware there has been a significant increase in demand across a number of inhaler presentations and we are working with suppliers to ensure supplies continue to remain available.

“Health care professionals and patients are reminded to only prescribe and order what they need during this time to ensure that all patients can continue to access their medicines.”

(Local Democracy Reporting Service)

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