Junior health minister Jo Churchill has thanked pharmacy teams for their work throughout the pandemic as the country enters its second national lockdown.

In an open letter, published yesterday (5 November), Ms Churchill praised pharmacy teams in England for supporting their communities and continuing to provide a service, which she said was ‘important under normal circumstances but is of vital importance at this moment’.

‘The exceptional circumstances we are facing as a country underline the critical role you play in our lives,’ she added.

National restrictions came into force in England yesterday (5 November) following a steep rise in Covid-19 cases across the country.

Ms Churchill said ‘it goes without saying that we face a very tough winter’, but are ‘better prepared now than we were earlier this year’.

‘You now have the experience of working in a Covid-secure environment, protecting your staff and patients and local business continuity plans are in place to help,’ she added.

‘Rise to the challenge’

Similar to the last national lockdown in March, all non-essential businesses have been forced to close, leaving pharmacies as one of the only remaining shops open on the high streets.

‘The actions taken by the department and NHS England & NHS Improvement, and the changes made earlier this year to support your work, will also help us this winter,’ Ms Churchill said.

She said she is continuing to talk to ‘frontline community pharmacy staff regularly, together with national bodies for pharmacists and pharmacy technicians’, about what more can be done to support the sector.

The letter said: ‘You have done an incredible job on the medicine’s delivery service for shielded patients and you are central to the delivery of this year’s expanded flu vaccination programme.

‘My ministerial colleagues and I remain hugely grateful for the efforts community pharmacy teams continue to make to support all of us.’

Ms Churchill concluded by saying she knows pharmacists ‘will rise to the challenge’ and urged them to take care of themselves and their families.

Sector reaction

Pharmacists have taken to Twitter in response to the letter, some saying that thanks alone is not enough.

A National Pharmacy Association spokesman said: 'Gratitude from a government minister is always something to welcome and we know that Jo Churchill is sincere in her praise for pharmacy teams.

'But pharmacies are now running on empty and they need more than words to keep them going. Pharmacies urgently require financial support from NHS England to keep the doors open for patients in this current lockdown and beyond.'

The pandemic delivery service has restarted in England and is due to run for the duration of the second national lockdown, until 3 December.