Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak leaves the New Broadcasting House following an interview on BBC TV's The Andrew Marr Show in London, Britain, February 28, 2021. REUTERS/Toby Melville

Ahead of today’s (March 3) budget, the PSNC has called on the Chancellor Rishi Sunak to intervene in the ongoing Covid-19 funding negotiations and ensure that pharmacies do not have to pay back any of the £370 million in emergency loans they received last year.

Last week, the Pharmacy Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) in a letter to Sunak  warned that paying back the loans could put many pharmacies at financial risk and even lead to more pharmacy closures.

“Community pharmacies are the most accessible providers of NHS services in the country, and like the rest of the NHS they expect the government to honour its commitment to give the NHS whatever it needs,” Simon Dukes, PSNC chief executive, said.

The pharmacy negotiator has also underlined both the value of the work that pharmacies are doing and the potential damage should any be forced to close. Closures would impact patient services, but they could also threaten disruption of the Covid-19 vaccination programme and put increasing pressure on local GP services.

PSNC has also issued a briefing to over 50 MPs and Peers updating them on the funding situation and asking for their help to persuade the government to cover contractors’ Covid-19 costs.

“Some MPs have already written to HM Treasury about the issue and we expect to see further questions, debates and meetings about this issue in Parliament in the coming weeks,” the PSNC said.

Detailing his Budget expectations, Simon Dukes said: “PSNC’s analysis indicates that pharmacies’ costs are now at more than £400m and rising: this money has been spent on carrying-out services for the NHS in a Covid-secure environment.

“As we have said before, community pharmacy contractors must have their costs fully covered and they must not be asked to subsidise the NHS. We urge the Chancellor to stand by his promise to give the NHS whatever resources it needs to deal with the pandemic, and to confirm in today’s Budget that he will do so for pharmacies. Pharmacies cannot afford to pay back their Covid-19 emergency loans and the Chancellor must now intervene to ensure that they are not asked to do so.”

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