The Royal Pharmaceutical society (RPS) has written to the Government demanding pharmacy professionals be included in the government’s recent pay rise for public sector workers.

Earlier this week, the Government announced that 900,000 public sector workers, including doctors, dentists and teachers would receive an above-inflation pay rise in recognition of their ‘vital contribution’ during the coronavirus pandemic. Pharmacists, as well as nurses and social care workers, were not included in this up payment.

RPS President Sandra Gidley said in a letter to the chancellor Rishi Sunak that the fact the pharmacy sector had missed out on this pay award was a ‘kick in the teeth for the profession.’

The body ‘urged’ the government to ‘to take action and extend this pay rise to all pharmacists, many of whom work on the front-line’.

‘It is astonishing that we have to continuously fight for the profession to be recognised in government initiatives, rather than benefiting from automatic recognition as key members of the NHS workforce,’ the letter said.

The RPS pointed out the ‘unwavering commitment’ the sector has had to patient care, as well as their response and the ‘clinical leadership’ shown during the pandemic while many other areas of primary care remained shut.

It added: ‘It is incredibly disappointing therefore that the omission of pharmacists and their teams in the current support for pay increases is yet another example of the poor acknowledgement of their essential role by the Government.

‘It is no longer acceptable for the profession to be an afterthought in important national initiatives such as the deployment of PPE and inclusion in death in service benefits.’

Lack of support

Earlier in the pandemic, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) confirmed that families of pharmacy team members who die after contracting Covid-19 will receive life assurance coverage only in ‘exceptional circumstances.’

However, soon after the announcement the Government made a U turn. Matt Hancock said on twitter that he was ‘glad to be able to confirm’ that community pharmacists will be covered by the death in service scheme, meaning those families of staff who die after contracting Covid-19 will receive £60,000 as a cash sum.

Unlike other primary care professionals, community pharmacies have also missed out on the government’s latest personal protective equipment (PPE) supply arrangement after it was decided that the sector will not be given access to the next rollout phase of the new PPE Portal.

‘Key public health asset’

This news of a pay rise for public sector workers comes as the government announces that it has expanded the cohort for this year’s flu vaccination programme, which is set to target 30 million patients.

In response to this, policy manager at the National Pharmacy Association (NPA), Helga Mangion said: ‘Pharmacies will need to do things differently this time around, to meet the increased demand and to accommodate social distancing as well as using PPE.

‘But no doubt they will step up to the plate and once again prove themselves to be a key public health asset.’