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Bury St Edmunds pharmacists demand action over 'lack of support' during coronavirus pandemic

Pharmacists are calling on the Government to make good on promises to support them through the pandemic.

Town centre pharmacies in Bury St Edmunds, along with those in outlying areas, have launched a poster, leaflet and social media campaign highlighting a pledge by Prime Minister Boris Johnson to support them during the pandemic.

They are also highlighting the role of Jo Churchill MP as Pharmacy Minister, and say a lack of Government support in helping with ‘rocketing’ costs is a ‘slap in the face’ to pharmacists and their staff, on the back ' long-term funding cuts'.

Nicholas Cooper with the campaign poster at Croasdales Chemist, Bury St Edmunds.
Nicholas Cooper with the campaign poster at Croasdales Chemist, Bury St Edmunds.

Nicholas Cooper, who runs Croasdales Chemist, on the Traverse, said: “Pharmacies have remained open throughout Covid crisis and the Government made promises of extra funding to help with costs for PPE and changes in store.

“Now, 70 per cent of our prescriptions dispensed need to be delivered as opposed to 30 per cent pre-pandemic – and costs have rocketed.

We receive no increased remuneration for 95 per cent of this work, and instead just had advanced payment for dispensing prescriptions, which we would have had anyway. Footfall has also dwindled by 70 per cent at the pharmacy itself with non-NHS sales falling by the same amount.

Staff at Guildhall Pharmacy
Staff at Guildhall Pharmacy

Pharmacists are feeling the strain.”

There has been a 63 per cent rise in pharmacy closures in England over the past five years, according to NHS data, with more than 400 pharmacy closures England in 2019/20.

Anil Sharma, owner of Guildhall Pharmacy, in Bury, said: “We want to give a message to Ms Churchill: our door is open – please let us keep it that way by reversing these devastating cuts.”

Mark Lyonette, National Pharmacy Association chief executive, said: “Pharmacies have been a local lifeline during the coronavirus crisis – a vital part of the NHS frontline.

"But the government continues to drag its feet over offering proper financial assistance.

The Prime Minister promised to give the NHS whatever it needs to cope with coronavirus and pharmacies are a vital part of the NHS frontline.

"We need government to make good on commitments to meet all the additional costs associated with coronavirus and also address long term underfunding - so that pharmacies can stay open to keep people well and save lives.”

A request for comment from Ms Churchill was passed to the Department of Health, which 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 playing a key role in our vaccination programme.

“During this global pandemic, £370 million has been made available in advance payments to support pharmacies in maintaining medicine supplies and providing health advice.

“Additional funding to meet extra costs incurred by pharmacies during the pandemic is being discussed with the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee.”

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