New figures from the General Pharmaceutical Council suggest there may have been a net decrease of 166 community pharmacies last year, as measured by the number of pharmacies on the GPhC’s register.
The GPhC’s papers for its February 13 council meeting provide a net figure of 100 closures across all types of pharmacy in the year to December 31 2019 – just over double the net decrease seen in 2018 (49).
When Pharmacy Network News approached the regulator for more information, it clarified that in total 299 pharmacy premises closed last year: 276 community pharmacies, 13 hospital pharmacies, two prison pharmacies and eight ‘temporary’ pharmacies.
Meanwhile, 110 new community pharmacies registered in 2019, as well as 72 internet pharmacies, four hospital pharmacies, two prison pharmacies and 10 ‘temporary’ pharmacies.
Community pharmacy closures were two-thirds higher last year than in 2018, when there was a net figure of 99 closures (222 openings and 321 closures) according to GPhC data.
Ninety-two per cent (255) of the community pharmacies that closed last year were in England, the regulator told PNN, while six per cent were in Scotland and two per cent in Wales.
The Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee monitors pharmacy numbers differently to GPhC, and told PNN it had seen a net decrease of 85 pharmacies in the first 11 months of 2019, compared with a net decrease of 101 pharmacies in 2018.
PNN understands that PSNC uses NHS Digital data to track the number of pharmacies with an OCS code allowing them to dispense medicines on the NHS.
These codes can be active for several months after an NHS dispensing contract has been terminated. This, along with the fact that 41 of the 276 community pharmacy closures recorded by the GPhC last year took place in December, may account for some of the discrepancy between PSNC’s closure figures and those provided by the regulator.
The number of registered pharmacists increased by 1,015 to 58,240 in 2019, which the GPhC said could be partly attributed to a higher pass rate in 2019’s registration exam (69.2 per cent versus 65.2 per cent in 2018).
This means the total number of pharmacists on the register is slightly higher (0.03 per cent) than the regulator’s budgeted projections. Numbers for both pharmacy technicians (23,719) and pharmacies (14,213) are lower than budgeted projections.
The GPhC noted that the latest figures show a “continuing decrease in numbers of EEA pharmacist registrations,” with 23 registrations in the third quarter of 2019-20 compared to 37 in the same period in 2018-19.
Q3 2019-20 saw slightly fewer registration renewals than the same period in 2018-19 (42,879 versus 43,270), as well as fewer revalidation submissions (42,686 versus 43,155).
The GPhC said it had processed 1,373 requests for voluntary removals in Q3, and that a further 303 registrations lapsed due to registrants failing to renew.