The pharmacy minister, Maria Caulfield MP, thanked the sector for its work during the Covid-19 pandemic, during a meeting with PSNC last week.

During the introductory meeting, ongoing challenges of the sector such as capacity, workforce and funding issues were addressed, as well as future opportunities for pharmacy businesses.

It comes two months after Ms Caulfield was appointed as a health minister, with responsibilities including pharmacy.

The former nurse, Ms Caulfield, said she and her constituents had both really appreciated the pharmacy sector throughout the pandemic, according to PSNC.

Zoe Long, PSNC director of communications and public affairs, said: ‘It was great to hear the minister talking so positively about the role pharmacies have played during the pandemic and how much people, including her own constituents, have relied on them.

‘We were also pleased to hear that while Government has ambitions to create more opportunities for pharmacies, they remain conscious of the pressures the sector is facing.

‘PSNC is really concerned about the distress that many pharmacy contractors and their teams are experiencing, and we look forward to continuing to work closely with the minister to support community pharmacies as they continue to help patients and the NHS.’

During her time in office, Ms Caulfield will have responsibilities for primary care; community health; major diseases; patient safety; maternity care; inquiries; cosmetic regulation; gender identity services; blood transplants & organ donation, and fertility & embryology.

Views on pharmacy funding

She has previously spoken out against the funding system for the sector, saying in a parliamentary debate in 2016, that the ‘funding system for pharmacies in this country is not working’.

She said she found it ‘extraordinary’ that ‘big national companies such as Sainsbury’s, Boots and Asda, many of which make profits of £1 billion a year, are being funded with NHS money, which goes to every one of their branches’.

Ms Caulfield added at the time: ‘The money that is saved through these changes must go to community pharmacies and away from big business.’

She later stood in favour of funding cuts for the pharmacy sector.

During the same debate, she said she did not believe pharmacy was properly understood by the Government.