MPs back pharmacy and call for more financial support in debate

MPs back pharmacy and call for more financial support in debate

March 12, 2021

MPs from across all political parties expressed their support and appreciation for community pharmacies yesterday (11 March), during a Westminster Hall debate on the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on the sector.  

Jackie Doyle-Price, Conservative MP for Thurrock and Chair of the All-Party Pharmacy Group (APPG) led the debate, which was attended by MPs across multiple political parties, all of whom spoke passionately about their local pharmacies and the sector’s response to the pandemic. Many drew on the recommendations of the APPG’s December 2020 inquiry and also questioned whether the financial support offered by the Government for the sector has been sufficient. 

All of the MPs spoke highly of their local pharmacies, particularly regarding their important role in providing patients with healthcare advice. Some MPs also quoted the headline figures from PSNC’s Pharmacy Advice Audit conducted last summer, which found that community pharmacies are delivering healthcare advice at a rate of 48 million consultations a year, saving nearly 500,000 GP appointments and 57,000 A&E visits each week. 

Many also praised the contribution of pharmacy teams in the COVID-19 vaccination programme so far, calling for a greater role for pharmacies in the long term. Some said they wanted to see many thousands of pharmacies administering vaccinations, while others stressed the important role pharmacies could play in the future, should booster vaccinations be required.  

But alongside lots of praise for the positive work pharmacies have been doing throughout pandemic, MPs also discussed the financial pressures facing the sector and warned of the risks if no further action is taken. Many expressed concerns about the implications of asking pharmacy contractors to repay some of the £370 million advance payments. They acknowledged that this money has been spent on the costs incurred in managing COVID-19 and that any repayment will exacerbate ongoing financial pressures.

Key contributions included:   

  • Taiwo Owatemi, Labour MP for Coventry North West, who praised the innovation shown by pharmacy teams ensuring that patients were able to maintain access to medicines through the quick implementation of the Pandemic Delivery Service. 
  • Holly Lynch, Labour MP for Halifax, who said a great debt is owed to underfunded and overworked pharmacies and their teams, who have gone above and beyond to relieve pressures on the NHS. 
  • Simon Fell, Conservative MP for Barrow and Furness, who spoke of a closure in his constituency and warned of the risk to patients should more follow. 

Alex Norris, Labour MP for Nottingham North and Shadow Pharmacy Minister, questioned what assessment has been made of the impact that repayment of the £370 million advance payments could have on pharmacies. He also spoke of the risk of closures, warning that communities could lose vital services to help prevention, early identification of disease and the management of other health conditions, as well as the administration of vaccinations. 

Jo Churchill, Conservative MP for Bury St Edmunds and Pharmacy Minister, was present to respond to the MPs and began by praising the role of pharmacy teams and their importance to local communities. 

The Minister spoke of the support which has been offered to community pharmacies so far, including access to general COVID-19 business support, rates relief, free PPE via the portal, plus non-monetary support including the removal of administrative tasks and flexibility around some opening hours. She also discussed the £370 million advance payments, which were made to community pharmacies to ease cashflow, and referenced ongoing discussions with PSNC regarding the reimbursement of COVID-19 costs by community pharmacy, saying: 

“We are still in discussions with the PSNC about the reimbursement of COVID-19 costs incurred by community pharmacy, and I can reassure the House that the Government will take a pragmatic approach. I expect to deduct any agreed funding from the £370 million advance payments, and to discuss timescales around the advance separately with the PSNC, being very mindful of the pressures. We need to assure ourselves that community pharmacies are financially stable. Without that stability, they cannot deliver those services.”

The debate followed work by PSNC, LPCs and others to brief Parliamentarians on the financial pressures facing community pharmacies.  This work will continue, alongside national media work, as we continue to press for contractors to be fully compensated for the impact that the pandemic has had on their businesses.

Listen to Simon Dukes, PSNC CEO, respond to the Parliamentary debate in his monthly video message to contractors.

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