The business rate bills for smaller community pharmacies are set to be cut by a third, the Chancellor has announced.

Unveiling the Budget on Monday (29 October) in Parliament, Philip Hammond said that retailers in England with a rateable value of less than £51,000 will see their business rate bills cut by 30% over the next two years. This represents an annual saving of up to £8,000, he added.

Mr Hammond also confirmed that more details on a £20.5bn investment in the NHS over the next five years will be released ‘shortly’ in the health service's 10-year plan.


‘Welcome relief’


Responding to the announcement, Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) chief executive Simon Dukes said that the reduction in business rates ‘may bring welcome relief’ for some smaller pharmacy businesses.

He added: ‘Public finances continue to remain very tight and this is certainly the case for the NHS, which has been set some stretching financial challenges by the Government.

‘As expected, little detail about future health funding was revealed as we await publication of the NHS 10-year plan. But it is clear that prevention and how we can reduce demand for services and help people to live longer, healthier lives, remains a key focus.

‘Community pharmacies have the potential to contribute much of value in this area, acting as health and wellbeing hubs on local high streets, and we will continue strongly to make the case for that.’

Earlier this month, PSNC announced that pharmacy funding will be maintained at £2.692bn, with £800m allocated to the retained margin and £1.3bn to the single activity fee (SAF).


Looking for ‘further progress’


Echoing Mr Dukes’ comments, the Royal Pharmaceutical Society’s (RPS) English pharmacy board chair Sandra Gidley said: ‘Community pharmacy owners may welcome future support around business rates, but will no doubt be looking for further progress to make the most of the community pharmacy network to improve patient care.’

In his budget speech, Mr Hammond also announced that spending on mental health will increase by more than £2bn by 2023/24.

Ms Gidley said that pharmacists can play a ‘key role in closing the gap between people’s physical and mental health’.

She continued: ‘Additional investment in mental health is welcome but this should also be targeted at support for people before they reach crisis point.’