The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) and NHS England are ‘failing in their duty’ to protect the pharmacy sector financially, PSNC has warned.
In an update on funding negotiations, Simon Dukes, PSNC’s chief executive, said its request for the Government to write-off the sector’s £370m Covid debt – made after rejecting an initial funding offer from DHSC – had been met with ‘little movement’ from the Treasury.
Mr Dukes said that HM Treasury’s position is ‘not in line with Ministers’ promises to give the NHS all it needed to get through the pandemic’, and that ‘DHSC and NHSE&I are failing in their duty to protect the sector financially’.
He added that PSNC must publicly hold the Government and NHS England to account for any impact the funding decisions may have on patients.
In response, a DHSC spokesperson said: ‘Community pharmacies make an important contribution to the NHS, and have gone above and beyond in response to COVID-19 to serve their communities, including in the vaccination programme.
‘During this unprecedented pandemic, £370 million has been made available in advance payments to support pharmacies in maintaining medicine supplies and providing health advice. Additional funding, for costs incurred during the pandemic, is being discussed with the sector.’
This comes after PSNC announced it had rejected an initial funding offer made by the DHSC to deal with the financial impact of Covid-19 on community pharmacy contractors for being ‘too limited’.
Instead, the negotiating body suggested that the Government write off the £370m in advance payments made to the sector earlier this year to help with Covid-related costs.
However, the Treasury is so far refusing to adjust its original funding offer, despite being shown extensive data on the costs contractors have incurred as a result of the pandemic, PSNC said.
Mr Dukes also said that community pharmacy will ‘increasingly need to go public with its concerns’ by making ‘more noise to showcase the value of what pharmacies do’.
The Guardian reported today that pharmacists in England are considering strike action unless the Treasury writes off the £370m debt.
A September report commissioned by the National Pharmacy Association (NPA) predicted almost three-quarters of independent pharmacies in England could be forced to close by 2024 if current contractual arrangements remain unchanged.