No Covid bonus for pharmacists in England, Labour MP told

Former pharmacy minister Jo Churchill last week told Labour MP and practising pharmacist Taiwo Owatemi that pharmacists in England will not receive a Covid bonus payment like their counterparts elsewhere in the UK, as they are already receiving “comprehensive” support.

Labour MP for Coventry North West Taiwo Owatemi, whose ongoing work as a locum pharmacist was the subject of a widely criticised Guido Fawkes article this summer, had asked whether health secretary Sajid Javid “plans to provide English pharmacists with a bonus payment on a similar basis to those provided by the Welsh Government to pharmacists in Wales”. Similar recognition payments have also been made in Scotland and Northern Ireland.

“We have no plans to do so,” Ms Churchill – who was moved to the Department for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food in last week's cabinet reshuffle – told Ms Owatemi in a written response on Tuesday September 14. “The Government has provided a comprehensive package of support for community pharmacies during the Covid-19 pandemic, in addition to the general support provided to all businesses."

“This has included the ability to claim for extra costs,” she said in reference to the Government’s agreement with PSNC to reimburse contractors for their Covid-related expenses. The negotiator announced last week that 95 per cent of contractors will be paid their claim in full at the beginning of October.

The Pharmacists’ Defence Association described Ms Churchill’s response as “disappointing” and said it “not only keeps England out of step with the other nations but also reflects a mindset which does not distinguish between pharmacies and pharmacists”.

The PDA added: “Too often decision-makers do not recognise the critical contribution pharmacists make to the health system beyond community pharmacy.

“This includes arrangements that rely on employers to cascade information, training, or funds that typically exclude the many thousands of locum pharmacists.

“It is critical that the views and perspectives of the profession, and not just the pharmacy owners, are heard and understood, particularly by government ministers.”

Ms Owatemi told Pharmacy Network News: "I am disappointed by the government's position given that community pharmacists were the only primary healthcare professionals who had their doors open through the entirety of the pandemic.

"Pharmacists buttress the vaccination scheme, support the test and trace system, and continue to step in whenever help is needed. Pharmacists deserve more from this government. They deserve their fair share."

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