Queen Elizabeth delivers the Queen's Speech during the State Opening of Parliament in the House of Lords at the Palace of Westminster in London, UK December 19, 2019 (Photo by Aaron Chown/Pool via REUTERS)

The government has pledged that the NHS’s multi-year funding settlement will be enshrined by law.

Setting out its new legislative agenda in the Queen’s speech today, Prime Minister Boris Johnson made his campaign slogan to “get Brexit done” his number one priority.

It was followed by the announcement to enshrine the NHS’s multi-year funding settlement by law, a move that will result in an annual increase of £33.9 billion in NHS funding by 2023-24.

The government said it will introduce a new fast-track NHS visa to boost the NHS workforce size and also announced a plan to introduce a 50 per cent discount in business rates for UK’s small retailers.

According to the government, the business rate cut will hike the current business rates discount for small retailers from one-third off to 50 per cent off during the next financial year.

The relief is eligible to retailers with a rateable value below £51,000, so will now help UK’s biggest store groups which have long campaigned for business rates reform.

“The government recognises the role of business rates as a source of local authority income and will consider input from the sector as part of the review of business rates,” the speech said.

National Pharmacy Association statement

Commenting on the changes to business rates, the National Pharmacy Association (NPA) said it welcomed any commitment from the government to reduce the impact of business rates.

“The current tax regime treats pharmacies differently from doctors and dentists, who both receive a rebate from the NHS for the business rates they pay,” said Gareth Jones, NPA’s Head of Corporate Affairs.

“Pharmacies, whose activities mostly consist of providing NHS services, are being penalised for being at the heart of communities where they are needed most.”

Jones said the NPA would  continue to advocate the government for more progress on this tax which represents a significant burden for many pharmacists at a time of serious financial challenge.

(With Reuters and AFP inputs)

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