Ten pharmacies closing each week in England due to 'perfect storm'

On average ten pharmacies shut every single week. Credit: PA

In the first four months of the year 177 pharmacies across England closed, according to The National Pharmacy Association (NPA).

It means that on average ten pharmacies shut every single week.

The association believes many are closing due to a decline in government funding and high levels of inflation, which is causing an increase in the cost of dispensing medicine.

The picture looked similar last year, with 403 pharmacy closures across the country - a significant increase, however, compared to 2022, when 91 closed.

The figures will come as a huge blow to ministers who launched their flagship Pharmacy First scheme, which gives pharmacists more powers to treat patients for a number of conditions, with the aim to ease pressure from GPs.

But as ITV News previously reported, the majority of pharmacy owners feel they are not getting enough money to deliver the government’s flagship Pharmacy First scheme.

The government said it is consulting on the funding and contract arrangements for pharmacies for 2024/25.

NPA chief executive Paul Rees said: “Community pharmacies face a perfect storm of rapidly declining levels of real terms government funding and high levels of inflation, which is both increasing the cost of dispensing medicine and pushing many community pharmacies to the brink.

“Government funding no longer covers the costs of the nation’s medicines, leaving pharmacies to subsidise the NHS from their own pockets.

“Without a real-terms increase in funding, pharmacies are being left with the choice of closing their doors or drastically reducing the service they can offer their local communities, making it more difficult for millions of people to get advice and vital medication.

“We need a new deal that delivers fair funding and provides an end to the mass closure of community pharmacies.”

Louise Ansari, chief executive of Healthwatch England, said: “The increase in pharmacy closures in England is concerning.

“People tell us what an essential source pharmacies are for advice, diagnosis and getting minor health issues treated. They also help in reducing the pressure on GPs.

“When a pharmacy closes, it impacts communities, especially older people who are the most regular users and those who don’t have the means to travel to a pharmacy that is further away.

“The pharmacy sector and healthcare system must work together to provide the service people need.”

David Fothergill, public health spokesperson for the Local Government Association, added: “Pharmacies have an important place in our local economy.

"They are vital to ensuring diverse and vibrant high streets, which can otherwise be dominated by betting shops, fast food outlets and coffee shops. Losing our pharmacies could leave gaps in high streets that may never been filled.”

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “More than four in five people live within a 20-minute walk of a pharmacy, and there are twice as many pharmacies in deprived areas, making access to care quicker and more convenient.

“We have made up to £645 million of new funding available over two years to support the expansion of community pharmacy services, including Pharmacy First, which comes on top of the £2.6 billion a year pharmacies already receive.

“We are also consulting with Community Pharmacy England on the funding and contract arrangements for 2024/25.”

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