Pharmacies call upon Health Secretary for emergency cash to stay afloat

Lloyds Pharmacy

Pharmacies are calling for government funding within weeks as they work “flat out” to meet surging demand.

Industry leaders say that chemists require extra money to cover exceptional costs, with some even being forced to hire security guards as they deal with an unprecedented number of prescriptions.

Whitehall officials say that they are working with pharmacists to “assess and agree” funding.

The Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee, which represents the industry in financial discussions with the government, said that the sector was heading towards a “cliff-edge”. Simon Dukes, its chief executive, said that some owners of community pharmacies had been forced to dip into personal savings to keep their businesses running.

The committee was working over the Easter period to provide ministers with “as much evidence as possible” why extra funding is required.

“The bills have got to be paid. We need it this month. We need it in April to help with an additional cashflow problem,” Mr Dukes said.

Chemists say that the sharp rise in demand for prescription medication has exacerbated an existing problem, with the NHS drugs tariff, which pharmacies receive for selling generic prescription drugs, in some cases being considerably lower than the prices they pay suppliers, raising the prospect of heavy losses.

“There is a fundamental issue. We’ve been underfunded for years and will continue to be so,” Mr Dukes said. “What Covid has done is just press the accelerator. We’re speeding now towards the cliff-edge.”

Matt Hancock, the health secretary, has announced an immediate £300 million cash boost for pharmacies, though this is part of the sector’s existing £2.6 billion annual funding deal, which pays chemists to provide patients with drugs and other services.