Pharmacies in England have claimed a total of £18.5m in personal protective equipment (PPE) reimbursements from the Government as of 31 March 2021, the Pharmacist has learned.

Of the 5823 standard and exceptional applications for reimbursement from pharmacy teams, 98% (5702) were successful, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) told the Pharmacist last week (30 April)

A further 32 applications from pharmacy groups with multiple branches were made, of which 29 were successful. There were also 216 late claims made, of which 190 were successful, DHSC said.

Contractors had until 12 February 2021 to claim reimbursement for PPE they purchased for their teams during the pandemic.

Any PPE bought and not claimed through the PPE portal by contractors to protect staff against Covid-19 between 27 February and 31 December 2020 was claimable.

According to PSNC guidance, pharmacies were able to claim between £830 and £4,060 for PPE costs, depending on their average monthly prescription volume over the period of the claim.

The PPE portal — which offered healthcare staff free PPE — was only made accessible to pharmacy teams in August, five months after the portal was first created and two months after other health and social care workers were first given access to the supplies.

The free PPE scheme was initially due to end in March 2021 but was extended by three months following a sharp rise in Covid cases and a third national lockdown.

Commenting on the figures, Mike Dent, PSNC’s director of pharmacy funding, said: ‘While we don’t have the detail of any individual contractors’ PPE claims, we are pleased that many contractors have been able to collectively claim back more than £18m for PPE following our negotiations with Government.

‘Using protective equipment was just one way in which pharmacies helped to provide a safe healthcare environment for patients throughout the pandemic: it is now vital that all the other Covid-19 costs borne by pharmacies are also covered by HM Government.’

Sandra Gidley, president of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, said: ‘We’re pleased that community pharmacists are now eligible for free of charge PPE via the PPE Portal and we encourage all to apply. While this is a significant percentage of successful reimbursement claims, it is important that all those who have already paid for supplies themselves are reimbursed.

‘We called for pharmacists to have access to free PPE much earlier into the pandemic and they should not have had to fund their own supplies, so it is only right that they get their money back.’