MP Bob Seely has stepped up his calls for government assistance to protect local pharmacies from closure.
Despite the significant role pharmacies are playing as they remain open during the coronavirus pandemic it is estimated that the cost to them of doing so is around £370 million nationally. It is feared three quarters of independent pharmacies could be forced to close within the next 12 months while up to 85% of community pharmacies could be in financial deficit by 2024.
Mr Seely, who previously raised the plight of local pharmacies in his own parliamentary debate last summer, has again spoken up in parliamentary session to seek government support. He has also written to Health Secretary Matt Hancock and Chancellor Rishi Sunak seeking their support on the issue.
Speaking in a Westminster Hall debate last Thursday, Mr Seely said: “Pharmacies, especially independent pharmacies, are a friendly, valued and, above all, trusted voice. For the NHS and the nation, they take pressure off accident and emergency departments, GP surgeries and other parts of the health service.
“At a modest cost, they deliver very significant benefits. They are a critical part of primary care that pays significant dividends, as well as alleviating pressure elsewhere.
“There must be a financial model that allows pharmacies, especially independent pharmacies, to make a reasonable living for the exceptionally valuable work that they do nationally and in their communities.”
While welcoming a previous assurance from the Prime Minister that pharmacies would be reimbursed, Mr Seely said he wants reassurance from the government that this is still the case as it was not mentioned in the Chancellor’s recent budget.
In his letter he said: “Whilst support from the government has been pledged, it is yet to arrive, leaving an average financial deficit of £32,000 per pharmacy.
“Other parts of the NHS such as GPs have had £197.5 million in costs reimbursed across 6,800 practices as a result of not being physically open. NHS dentists have also received permanent payments for lost revenue as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. Pharmacies have not yet received the same level of support.”
He said: “Pharmacies need certainty. We have six independent pharmacies on the Island and they are all highly valued but I worry for their future and the impact potential closures could have on the communities they serve.
“Pharmacies have been a lifeline to people during the pandemic with many staying open to continue to serve their patients, often delivering medicines at their own costs to the homes of the vulnerable and at-risk patients.”
Mr Seely said pharmacists such as Timothy Gibbs at Yarmouth Pharmacy, who was recently granted the Freedom of Yarmouth for his work during the pandemic, continued to lose money by fulfilling their medical roles, an issue exacerbated by lower demand for other non-medical goods that pharmacies sell.
“The Covid-19 crisis has led to a considerable backlog for patients across the NHS. Properly funded, pharmacies are ideally placed to step in and take on a greater clinical role in treating minor and chronic illnesses as well as taking on public health and prevention initiatives, allowing doctors and hospitals to focus on tackling the backlog of cancer patients and others with critical illnesses.”