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Examined: Covid-19 pharmacy funding across the UK

The response to the cash flow challenge created by the explosion of prescribing in March has been handled differently across the UK.

With pharmacists commonly reporting dispensing volumes of 150-200 per cent compared to a normal March - or like “Christmas and Easter at once,” as several have described the peak weeks we are currently seeing - the support provided to date by governments across the UK has varied in terms of how much is offered and the level of detail regarding how advances must be repaid. 

In England, PSNC has said that the April cash injection represents around 26 per cent more cash than a regular month, with and an additional 13 per cent to come on top of this in May. Per pharmacy, this is lower than the other parts of the UK; in Scotland, the payment at the end of April will be 300 per cent of a regular month and is going to be based on December payments, which are normally the highest of the year owing to the Christmas/New Year holidays.

Only Wales has set out a timetable for repayment of what are, in effect, loans. The £50m advance payment in Wales is due to be repaid in 10 instalments, beginning in June.   

Easter Bank Holiday opening is just the latest issue for which contractors will be looking for answers. With GP organisations already committing across the UK to be “open” along the current lines on both Good Friday and Easter Monday, community pharmacy teams will be hoping that the normal 'easter rush' will be less intense this year as many patients may have already had enough of their medicines dispensed to cover this period.

Negotiations are continuing in all four countries on various matters connected to the Covid-19 pandemic. Each of the four home nations' responses to key Covid-19 pharmacy issues are set out below. 

England Northern Ireland Scotland  Wales
Advance payments £200m extra in April, £100m extra in May £35m advance payment has been agreed. £10.5m paid in the March payment; £25m in April

Three times December payment to be paid at the end of April

£50m by 7 April to help alleviate immediate cash flow issue, paid in addition and equivalent to the advance payment at end of March. 
Advance payment conditions Must be "reconciled at a later date" Not known yet To be agreed To be repaid in 10 instalments, starting 1 June 
PPE provision

Further stock is being made available through wholesalers to order. 

According to latest PHE guidance, PPE needed where 2m social distancing cannot be maintained. 

Initial £10.5m advance said to recognise premises modifications, staff overtime, extra cleaning Distribution of plastic aprons and gloves via Alliance Healthcare this week. Level being reviewed again (based on Health Protection Scotland advice).
Other Covid-19 measures 

£300 per pharmacy for costs of instore social distancing measures. 

Initial £10.5m advance said to recognise premises modifications, staff overtime, extra cleaning CPS have requested funding for social distancing (more than £300 per pharmacy requested); Pharmacy First launch postponed; paracetamol PGDs for POM quantities 
Easter opening Pharmacies expected to open "for a few hours"; talks between PSNC and Government ongoing. No decision yet. CPS taking advice from board

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