Pharmacy closures are ‘skyrocketing’ with as many as 10 shutting their doors each week, experts warn.

Some 177 pharmacies closed across England between January and the end of April this year, figures reveal.

Last year there were 403 pharmacy closures across the country compared with 91 in 2022, according to analysis of official NHS data by industry body National Pharmacy Association (NPA).

The NPA said that without a real-terms increase to funding for pharmacies, many will have no option but to close for good.

NHS Business Services Authority data published in October shows in England just 11,414 community pharmacies remained in the 2022/23 financial year

NHS Business Services Authority data published in October shows in England just 11,414 community pharmacies remained in the 2022/23 financial year

Boots have closed numerous local branches while LloydsPharmacy has shut its doors completely in January. Pictured: a Lloyds Pharmacy store in Bracknell, Berkshire

Boots have closed numerous local branches while LloydsPharmacy has shut its doors completely in January. Pictured: a Lloyds Pharmacy store in Bracknell, Berkshire

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

Figures released by the NHS last year showed just 11,414 community pharmacies offering key NHS services remained in 2022/23 — the lowest level since records began almost a decade ago.

Real-time NHS England data shows the count as of April 30, 2024, however, may be as little as 10,506.

The closures are a blow to the government’s flagship Pharmacy First scheme, which gives pharmacists more powers to treat patients for a number of common conditions.

It is hoped the initiative will ease pressure on overstretched GPs.

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. 

Under NHS plans to free up millions of appointments with family doctors, chemists can now dish out contraceptive pills to women. High street pharmacists also have powers to hand out prescriptions for common ailments, meaning patients battling minor illnesses can bypass their GP. Under wider plans, pharmacists are also offering more blood pressure checks to at-risk patients, with a commitment to deliver 2.5 million a year by spring 2025

Under NHS plans to free up millions of appointments with family doctors, chemists can now dish out contraceptive pills to women. High street pharmacists also have powers to hand out prescriptions for common ailments, meaning patients battling minor illnesses can bypass their GP. Under wider plans, pharmacists are also offering more blood pressure checks to at-risk patients, with a commitment to deliver 2.5 million a year by spring 2025

‘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.’

A Department of Health and Social Care spokeswoman 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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