Local chemists battling rising costs would have been better off shutting their doors during the coronavirus pandemic, an industry leader warned last night.
The National Pharmacy Association has written to Boris Johnson asking for help as its members face an unprecedented crisis triggered by the outbreak.
The sector was handed a £300million advanced payment to cope with Covid-19, with £200million paid on April 1 and £100million at the start of this month.
But announcing the cash, the Department of Health stressed the cash was not extra money.
It said: “This uplift is not an additional funding over and above what was agreed for 2020/21 under the Community Pharmacy Contractual Framework 5-year deal. The uplift will be reconciled in 2020/21.”
In a letter to the PM, seen by the Mirror, the NPA warned Mr Johnson last night: “Pharmacies are under huge financial and operational pressures due to Covid-19.”
It says there is “trepidation across the sector” at having to repay the cash.
The letter goes on: Local pharmacies have incurred considerable costs for staying open throughout the coronavirus crisis, including large increases in staff and medicine costs, outlays for security, PPE and deliveries.
“A special Covid-19 payment to cover these exceptional costs would help provide the financial stability that we need to keep our doors open.”
NPA chief executive Mark Lyonette told the Mirror: “Financially speaking, many pharmacies would have been better off if they’d closed their doors to the public altogether throughout much of March and April and things remain very tight.
“But, as caring health care professionals, they have kept the doors open – often at considerable personal cost.
“Pharmacists are acutely aware that they are the frontline of the nation’s response to coronavirus and are bearing a heavy burden in order to keep people safe and well.”
The NPA says at least five pharmacy workers have died from the disease.
Announcing the £300million advance on April 2, Health Minister Jo Churchill said: “Every day, community pharmacies carry out critical work to protect the health of the public and support the wider NHS.
“This is even more important now as we face this unprecedented time.
“We hugely value the role of the community pharmacy, which is why we are backing them with £300million of advanced funding to support them as we continue to assess the full additional impact of coronavirus on community pharmacy.”