A Tory MP has been slammed by the pharmacy sector for suggesting some NHS workers were ‘letting their hair down’ during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Richard Bacon, an MP for South Norfolk, was speaking to the BBC yesterday (26 May) after a report from Sue Gray, a senior civil servant, highlighted the extent of lockdown parties at Downing Street.

In an attempt to defend the prime minister, Mr Bacon said: ‘You haven't gone and investigated it but there are one and a half million people who work in the NHS.

‘I bet if you tried hard enough you could find some people letting their hair down who were working 24/7 in the NHS as well.’

Gareth Jones, the National Pharmacy Association’s (NPA) director of corporate affairs, said that to suggest that health workers had ‘let their hair down’ during this pandemic was ‘deeply insensitive and hurtful’.

‘Pharmacists, pharmacy staff, and colleagues right across the NHS have put in a relentless effort to keep people well during the pandemic, in the most trying circumstances’, he explained.

Meanwhile, Leyla Hannbeck, the CEO of the Association of Independent Multiple pharmacies (AIMp), said Mr Bacons’ comments were ‘outright wrong’.

‘Pharmacies across the UK kept their doors open throughout the pandemic delivering many vital services and in doing so put their lives at risk for their local communities.’

Shadow health secretary Wes Streeting called for Mr Bacon to withdraw the statement and apologise.

He tweeted that the comments were a ‘grotesque insult to the people who work for the NHS’.

Amish Patel, who runs Hodgson Pharmacy in Kent, said he was ‘flabbergasted’ to find out an MP said something ‘so ignorant’.

‘It must be nice to be an MP, working from home or an office all day during the pandemic when we as pharmacists risked our lives and families’ lives going into work,’ he said.

‘It’s appalling, and quite frankly, I’m insulted,’ he added.

This month, Prince Charles paid tribute to the ‘dedication and professionalism’ of pharmacy staff during the Covid-19 pandemic.

At a reception, hosted at St James’s Palace in early May, the Prince of Wales highlighted the ‘marvellous work’ pharmacies do in communities ‘day in and day out’.

Last year, Boris Johnson thanked pharmacists for their ‘devotion and self-sacrifice’ throughout Covid-19 pandemic.