The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Pharmacy (APPG) has launched an inquiry into the financial impact of Covid-19 on pharmacies, with the view to securing ‘extra support’ from the Government and NHS if necessary, it said in an announcement today (17 November).

The APPG, which is a non-government body made up of a cross-section of MPs with an interest in pharmacy, will look at how the pandemic has affected pharmacies' ability to provide vital services to their communities.

It will also examine the pressures faced by frontline pharmacy teams, how they have coped, and whether existing funding structures have been enough to support the sector.

The group acknowledged that pharmacy teams have worked tirelessly throughout the pandemic and remained open in the face of unprecedented demand, but that ‘a unique set of challenges are posing a threat to the sustainability of the sector’.

Jackie Doyle-Price, chair of the APPG, said: ‘We are hearing so many examples of how the financial and operational challenges faced by community pharmacies are being amplified by the pandemic. In many cases posing an existential threat to them.

‘Our inquiry seeks to rapidly examine these challenges and provide a set of recommendations which can be offered to the Government.’

The body has published a survey for the pharmacy sector to gather evidence for the inquiry. The survey will be running from today (17 November) until Monday 30 November.

Funding offer from Government

This comes after PSNC announced it has rejected an initial funding offer made by the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) to deal with the financial impact of Covid-19 on community pharmacy contractors.

Instead, the negotiating body has suggested that the Government write off the £370m in advance payments made to the sector earlier this year to help with Covid-related costs.

Simon Dukes, PSNC chief executive, said that although the advanced payment was initially welcomed, more funding is needed to support the sector.

He said: ‘There is quite simply nothing more pharmacies could be doing to help their local communities, support the NHS and provide value to HM Government, and in the past months we have presented this case as business data, analysis, projections, case studies and strong value arguments to officials.

‘We are waiting for a response to our latest proposal on Covid-19 costs, in which we propose a write-off of the £370m advance payments against the costs of Covid-19 to contractors for a fixed period, and also to our separate bid for an uplift to CPCF funding.’

He added: ‘Community pharmacies are providing essential services to people through this pandemic and they will be critical to ensuring the continuity of medicines as we exit the EU: they must be treated as the valuable part of the NHS that they are.

The negotiations are ongoing, but Mr Dukes said PSNC would not accept ‘any less than full reimbursement for pharmacies of their Covid-related costs’.