By Neil Trainis
Lord Grade has vigorously criticised the government over the £370 million in advance funding it has given pharmacies in England during the coronavirus pandemic and insisted the money is “nowhere enough” to ensure independents stay in business.
Lord Grade made his comments during a debate in which Lord Bethell, a junior minister in Matt Hancock's team, said the Government provided the money to ensure the sector “is treated correctly”.
Conservative peer and former television executive Lord Grade insisted the cash advance - which must be paid back - showed pharmacies were not being treated properly.
“Independent pharmacies in so many small towns such as Yarmouth and places such as the Isle of Wight are now the heroic first line of defence for GPs and the NHS,” he said.
“The most vulnerable in these communities depend on them for medical advice and deliveries of vital prescriptions, which they offer for free.
“In my view, it is totally unrealistic for the Department (of Health and Social Care) to point to some recent funding help as if that has solved the problem.
“It is nowhere near enough to keep the pharmacies in business, let alone to allow the pharmacists to have a day off or even earn a living... it just demonstrates that the department fails to understand why independent pharmacists are still in such grave peril.”
Lord Grade urged Lord Bethell, a parliamentary under-secretary of state at the Department of Health and Social Care, to “meet a delegation of these frontline heroes to hear directly why their businesses continue to hang by a thread.”
When independents fold, Lord Grade warned, “they will not be replaced.”
In response, Lord Bethell said he would be “very pleased to meet a delegation to discuss the challenges that they face.”