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Pharmacy closures in England are ‘skyrocketing’, NPA warns

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Pharmacy closures in England are ‘skyrocketing’, NPA warns

The National Pharmacy Association has warned the number of pharmacies closing in England is “skyrocketing” after its analysis of NHS data revealed the community pharmacy network is being hit hard by poor funding and rising costs.

Drawing on figures from the NHS Business Services Authority, the NPA said 177 pharmacies closed between January and April 2024 compared with 116 during the same period last year.

“This is the equivalent to 10 local pharmacies closing their doors every week so far this year,” the NPA said, warning the 403 pharmacies that closed last year was almost five times higher than those that closed in 2022.

The NPA also said more than 1,400 pharmacies have closed in the UK since 2017 and insisted “rising costs and declining real terms funding” was bringing about “the fastest rate of closures in decades.”

“Real terms funding has decreased by 40 per cent over the last decade,” it said. The NPA reiterated its call for the government to provide a new deal for pharmacies and ensure they receive 2.5 per cent of the NHS budget, up from the 1.6 per cent pharmacies currently receive.

NPA chief executive Paul Rees said the latest closure figures were “absolutely shocking and distressing.”

“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,” he said.

“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.”

CPE chief: Many pharmacies are on 'brink of collapse'

Community Pharmacy England chief executive Janet Morrison warned “years of financial and operational pressures” was pushing many pharmacies to “the brink of collapse,” leaving many with no option but to reduce their opening hours and close their doors temporarily.

“The message to government and the NHS remains clear: if you do not reverse this policy, and fast, the impact will be catastrophic and vital healthcare services will become ever more chaotic, with medicines supply at great risk,” Morrison said.

She said the government’s £645 million investment in community pharmacy last year as part of its GP access recovery plan “was very much needed” but warned it was “not enough to reverse all of the pressures on community pharmacies.”

“The viability of pharmacy businesses remains our critical concern in funding discussions with policymakers,” she said.

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