Community pharmacies in England are to receive £300 million in advance funding as an uplift for contractors. The money is to be expected to be issued over the next two months and has been given in recognition of significant cash flow pressures facing the sector due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The payments will come in two instalments -- one of £200 million near 1 April 2020 and another £100 million at the end of April or early May. This is not new money for the sector and will need to be reconciled at a later date.

The update to advance funding into community pharmacies was announced yesterday (31 March) by the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC), who had been in urgent negotiations with the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) and the NHS for several weeks.

Pharmacy leaders have their say on the changes:

PSNC: ‘This funding gesture alone is not enough’

PSNC Chief Executive Simon Dukes says he appreciates the recognition that pharmacy has received from ministers, but says that current funding is not enough

He said: ‘In negotiations over the past month we have made clear to HM Government that community pharmacy is at a critical point, with pharmacy teams and businesses under extreme pressure and many pharmacies now not financially viable.

‘We welcome the intention of this cash injection and in particular Ministers’ recognition of the impressive way in which pharmacies are rising to the many challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic. But this funding gesture alone is not enough: we have informed HM Government that it simply will not be sufficient to help many contractors to meet the rapidly increasing costs that they are facing as a result of this pandemic.

‘We are continuing our dialogue with the Minister, with officials and with the NHS, and in the coming days we and the other national pharmacy organisations will be putting yet more evidence to them, trying to persuade them of the very urgent need for further emergency funding support, over and above the agreed global sum of £2.592 billion, for this vital part of the NHS.’

NPA: ‘It is only part of the support needed to keep vital frontline services going’

The National Pharmacy Association (NPA) welcomes the announcement of a £300m advanced payment for community pharmacy as a good ‘first step’.

The payment would allow wholesalers to have greater confidence that pharmacies can meet patients’ needs without failing to pay wholesaler bills, said the NPA. It will also help pharmacies to continue to supply patients with the medicines they need.

The body also noted that although this is an essential first step, it’s ‘only part of the support needed to keep vital frontline services going.’ It urged the government to meet all the additional costs pharmacies will experience as a result of coronavirus, to ensure pharmacies can not only maintain good service now, but also in the future following the pandemic.

Additional costs incurred by pharmacies during the pandemic include extra staff and measures to safeguard the health of staff.

Cash-flow problems before the pandemic outbreak have now been exacerbated, and much more funding and support are now needed, said the NPA.

RPS: ‘This will not yet be enough to support those pharmacy teams working hard on the frontline’

Chair of the RPS English Pharmacy Board, Professor Claire Anderson, welcomes the cash advancement but does not think it’s enough to solve the issues at hand.

She said: ‘This is a welcome step in the right direction for pharmacies facing immediate cash flow concerns but should come from new money. With rising costs, this will not yet be enough to support those pharmacy teams working hard on the frontline during the Covid-19 pandemic. As we await further details on the proposed medicines delivery service, we must also see fair funding in the longer-term to help pharmacies keep their doors open to the public.

‘Alongside this, we are seeking further clarifications on how the government protects all pharmacy teams, including pharmacists and support staff having appropriate access to PPE and timely testing for Covid-19 so they can continue looking after patients.

‘In the face of growing pressures, we’d also look for an easing of the administrative burden, including stopping the management of prescription charges, as well as equal access to occupational health support for all staff.