Pharmacy leaders described yesterday’s Spring Budget as a missed opportunity to fund the sector, despite welcome VAT measures.

No new money for the NHS or for pharmacies was announced, but sector leaders said that changes to make services carried out under the supervision of a pharmacist and medicines dispensed under a PDG VAT-exempt could be a game changer when it comes to local commissioning.

NPA chief executive, Mark Lyonette, said that while he was pleased with the changes on VAT announced in the Budget, ‘these measures don’t touch the sides as far as the massive hole in pharmacy funding is concerned’.

He added: ‘Although this is a positive signal, it is pennies rather than pounds and another opportunity to fundamentally address the funding crisis in community pharmacy has been missed in this latest Budget.’

‘We’ve grown used to being disappointed’

Dr Leyla Hannbeck, chief executive of the Association of Independent Multiple Pharmacies (AIMp), said that while ‘we’re always hoping for new money for the NHS and for pharmacies in particular’, the sector had ‘grown used to being disappointed’.

She added: ‘We have consistently been providing a first-class service under intense and growing pressure, but sadly, for some it’s becoming too much and they’re having to close.

‘The government cannot keep ignoring this, at some stage it must recognise the crisis in our pharmacies.’

‘Depressingly predictable that pharmacy will be overlooked’

Janet Morrison, chief executive of the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee, said that the changes to the VAT exemption for services under the supervision of a pharmacist were ‘a critical step if pharmacies are to make headway in making best use of the skill mix that they have’.

However, she said that the changes would be ‘small in impact in the context of the current challenges’.

She continued: ‘It’s become depressingly predictable that community pharmacy will be overlooked in the Chancellor’s Budget statements, but never has this been a bigger missed opportunity than today’.

She added that it was ‘particularly insulting’ that some organisations were being given help with energy bills, but not pharmacies.

She said that ‘pharmacy is teetering on the edge of collapse’ and the government had ‘a choice’, to either back the community pharmacy sector ‘and reap the benefits for the NHS and patients’, or to ‘keep going as they are and oversee the collapse of community pharmacy, putting the welfare of millions of people at risk.’