MP speaks up for independent pharmacies

Independent chemists struggling to make ends meet during the Covid-19 pandemic have received support from the Government’s pharmacies minister following demands for action in the House of Commons by Isle of Wight MP Bob Seely.

Mr Seely introduced a debate on Monday following a request for help from local independent pharmacist Tim Gibbs of Yarmouth Pharmacy.

Mr Seely said pharmacies had suffered the double blow of having to pay for additional resources such as safety screens at a time when over the counter sales had fallen away because of lockdown. This was particularly felt in places like Yarmouth where visitor purchases supplemented local trade.

Mr Seely said: “Although many healthcare providers closed their doors during the pandemic, pharmacists stayed open, often at risk to themselves and their staff. For many people in our communities, NHS pharmacies were the visible face of healthcare on the High Street.

“Pharmacy staff saw patients in person and ensured that the public – particularly vulnerable patients – had a consistent and safe supply of medicine. In doing so, they took considerable pressure off other elements of the health service.”

He said although Government support for independent pharmacies during the pandemic was welcome, the funding for pharmacies had shrunk by a significant amount in recent years.

“If pharmacists are left holding the bag for the costs that they have incurred through serving their communities in the past few months, many of them, including Tim, are worried that they will be forced to shut down in the next year or two.

“I believe that that would be a national shame. The ongoing uncertainty is an additional burden that pharmacists just do not need.”

In response, Pharmacy Minister, Jo Churchill, said: “Community pharmacies across the country, including those on the Island are at the very heart of our community. Everyone agrees they play a vital role in providing medicines and health advice to all those who cross their threshold.

“We will continue to work closely with the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee, NHS England and NHS Improvement to consider what further support and funding contractors will need during the pandemic and as we move into the recovery phase.

“We have just entered discussions on firm proposals for additional funding put forward by the Government to meet the extra costs incurred by pharmacists at the peak of the pandemic.

“I thank the Member for Isle of Wight for securing this important debate. I know that the coming months will continue to be challenging for Tim and the other community pharmacists, but it is really important they know quite how much they are valued by members from all parties, but mostly by their communities.

“I am personally committed to continue to do all that I can to support community pharmacies, which are an essential part of our lives, our high streets and our NHS family.”