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Only independent pharmacy in Barrow-in-Furness could soon close due to Covid-19-induced financial pressures


By Isabel Shaw
Reporter

29 Apr 2020

New financial pressures brought about by coronavirus and a lack of government funding has left the last independent community pharmacy in Barrow struggling to keep its doors open and the future of the pharmacy in danger.

Coward’s Pharmacy, in Barrow, Cumbria, is currently the only remaining community pharmacy business operating in the area. Since the Covid-19 outbreak in January, the pharmacy has had to consider the future and the possibility of closure.

Pharmacist and managing director of Coward’s Pharmacy, Sri Kanaparthy, said that ‘if medication prices continue to rise and [community pharmacy] does not get any additional funding’ then the pharmacy is likely to quickly be in a situation where they can no longer operate.

‘Devastating’

Having to close would be ‘devastating,’ said Mr Kanaparthy. ‘We are well-liked in the community and have been making such positive developments with this pharmacy over the last two years, but then suddenly Covid-19 struck, and since we’ve been struggling.’

He expressed concern for his patients and the potential harm the closure of the pharmacy would have on them.

‘We base our services – like all independent pharmacies – on the needs and requirements of the individual people in our community. Without us here, patients will have no specifically tailored service at all,’ he said.

Mr Kanaparthy had bought the pharmacy after it had been shut down by previous owners because of financial troubles.

The pharmacist attributed the recent financial pressures to a sharp rise in medication prices, as well as lack of support from the government.

A sharp rise in medication prices

‘Currently, all of our wholesalers have all hiked up prices, which means daily we are getting about 15 to 20 items a day coming in over the tariff.

‘If this continues to happen, our bank is going to go into negative. No lender is going to support a business that runs into negatives consistently, and then we will have to close,’ he explained.

The pharmacist also commented on the consistent lack of funding and years of austerity suffered by the sector, adding: ‘I really hope the government finally recognises the importance of community pharmacy and increases the funding to a sustainable level to prevent any community pharmacies being forced to close.’

The current government funding in ‘not enough’

The government’s £300 million loan to community pharmacy, which pharmacies are expected to pay back, is ‘not enough’ to cover Mr Kanaparthy’s growing costs.

‘We are wasting time and money that we don’t have on trying to source medications and find delivery drivers,’ he said.

Mr Kanaparthy strongly believed that with extra funding from the government his community pharmacy could survive this crisis. With the extra finances, his team ‘could concentrate on what needs doing, which is providing services and providing health advice to patients, rather than constantly having to try and manage the finances in the background,’ the pharmacist said.

Yesterday, the government told The Pharmacist that pharmacy teams would not automatically be included in the new NHS life assurance scheme – which will provide bereaved family members of ‘eligible’ frontline NHS staff with a cash sum of £60,000.

The Pharmacist has created a tribute page for pharmacy staff who have lost their lives to the virus – for those who loved and cared for those who died to share their thoughts: find it here.

What’s happening in your area? Contact Isabel at isabelshaw@cogora.com with any information that would be useful for us to share with community pharmacy colleagues


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