Community pharmacies in England have claimed nearly £270m from the government to cover costs associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, the NHS Business Services Authority (NHSBSA) has said.
All community pharmacy contractors in England were invited to claim for costs related to COVID-19 incurred between 1 March 2020 and 31 March 2021, following a deal between the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) and the government announced in June 2021. Contractors had until 15 August 2021 to make their claims.
The submitted claims could cover: additional staff costs; costs incurred to make premises COVID-19 secure; IT and communication costs to support home working and virtual patient contact; and the cost of closures for infection control purposes for a maximum of 14 days.
In response to a freedom of information request, provided on 11 October 2021, NHSBSA told The Pharmaceutical Journal that it had received financial claims from 9,974 different pharmacies.
These pharmacies submitted claims worth a total of £267.1m and included compensation for a total of 1,477 closure days.
NHSBSA noted in its response that the claims were “accurate when the information was collated on 5 October 2021”, with the figures “subject to change due to the ongoing pre- and post-payment verification processes that the NHSBSA have in place, and any potential claim forms which may be submitted late”.
In September 2021, former PSNC chief executive Simon Dukes said that approximately 5% of contractors would be contacted for further information about their claims, but that pharmacies should expect to receive their first repayment in October 2021.
However, the total cost of the claims is more than £100m short of the £370m advance payments distributed to community pharmacies in 2020, which the government requested the sector pay back in six instalments from October 2021.
Mark Lyonette, chief executive of the National Pharmacy Association, said the payments from the government “could make the difference between viability and business failure in some cases”.
“It’s inevitable that some pharmacies won’t have claimed for all their COVID-related expenditure; pharmacies had to calculate costs retrospectively, and, at the height of the pandemic, they were looking after patients and not necessarily keeping time sheets and every receipt,” he added.
The PSNC previously rejected an offer of funding from the government to help pharmacies with costs related to COVID-19 in July 2020.
The initial offer proposed to only accept claims from between 1 March 2020 and 31 May 2020, excluded non-staff costs and capped the total value of claims at £120m.
In February 2021, the PSNC told the Treasury that it estimated community pharmacies had incurred costs of up to £400m “and rising” owing to the COVID-19 pandemic.