Pharmacies ‘on brink of collapse’ as wholesalers increase UK painkiller price

Britons continue to panic and stockpile on essential items such as groceries, toiletries and medicines as the number of Covid-19 patients as the death toll topped 240. The Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee, which represents NHS community pharmacies, said pharmacies are under mounting pressure as wholesalers hike their prices. The committee’s chief executive, Simon Dukes, described many pharmacies in Britain as being “on the brink of collapse”.

He said stores don’t always get back from the NHS the extra money they have to pay for products.

He told the Sunday Times: “Community pharmacies are on the front line and are experiencing notable increases in the number of walk-ins and phone calls, inquiries for delivery services, substantial price rises for common medicines, and increasing levels of staff sickness.

“The sector’s response to the coronavirus outbreak has been impressive, but many community pharmacies were on their knees financially before this outbreak and are now teetering on the brink of collapse.”

Prices of some basic medications have increased drastically over the past few weeks and day.

One NHS community pharmacist told the Sunday Times that the wholesale price for a packet of paracetamol had went from 65p to £2.38.

Reports suggests pharmacists are finding it increasingly difficult to put painkillers, antidepressants, anti-anxiety medications and paracetamol on their shelves.

Garry Myers, who runs five NHS community pharmacies in Yorkshire, Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire, said while the vast majority of people could get their hands on the medications they require, some have faced hurdles.

Mr Myers said co-codamol was “in short supply at the moment”.

The dwindling supply has been attributed to Britons rushing out to stock up on meds in case they get infected with Covid-19.

Factories in China and India have rolled back exports of drugs.

Jason Leitch, the national clinical director of healthcare quality and strategy, said the coronavirus pandemic had come “on us really fast”.

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Speaking on BBC Breakfast, he pledged to improve the distribution of the personal protective equipment (PPE) needed by frontline health professionals dealing with Covid-19.

He said the it will “get better over the next few days”.

Mr Leitch insisted there was sufficient supply of items, amid concerns that not all medical and care workers who need such items have been provided with them.

However, he said the distribution of such items had been “challenging”, as the health service tries to get protective equipment out to more people than normal.

Mr Leitch said: “I know there is enough supply, the distribution has been challenging, because we’re adding in new places, we’re adding in care homes, we’re adding in community pharmacies.

“We’ve not had to do regular PPE transmission to those places before, so that is causing some individual challenges around the four UK countries.

“The third thing is we have to train, particularly the high-end people, the intensive care nurses and those we are training up to help us in intensive care, to know how to work these masks.”

He told how the most protective “high-end” masks were “uncomfortable” for staff to wear, saying: “I have worn them in theatre and they are not fun, they are sore over a long time”.

He also stressed that “you have to make sure the fit is right, so you have to be trained in how to do it for yourselves and also how to help others”.

Mr Leitch said: “I am confident that the beginning of that supply chain is robust and now the distribution will get better over the next few days.

“And then the training inside the trusts in England and the health boards in Scotland is now going much better.”

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