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Community pharmacy network feels the pinch

More than double the number of last year's closures

August 17th 2018

Tagged: NHS statistical reports Pharmacy owners' news England

By Ailsa Colquhoun

Community pharmacies in England have felt the pinch with well over double the number of pharmacies closing in 2017-18, compared to 2016-17, NHS statistics show.

In 2017-18, 126 pharmacies closed, compared to the 47 that shut up shop in 2016-17.

For the first time in at least a decade, the total number of pharmacies in England fell; by the end of the year the network stood at 11,619 community pharmacies. The cohort of pharmacies worst affected by the closures were those dispensing between 2,001 – 4,000 prescriptions a month: the statistics show a decline of 61 pharmacies in this volume band – a fall of 3.23 per cent.

This fall is not explained by rising dispensing volumes, which also fell marginally during the year – down to 1,013.3 million from 1,015.6m in 2016-17. Declining numbers were also seen among pharmacies with dispensing volumes of between 6,001-8,000 and 10,000+ items. One in four pharmacies now dispense between 4,001 – 6,000 items a month.

Independent pharmacies continue to see their share of the market decline: in 2017-18 they held a 38 per cent of the market (= 4,386 independent pharmacies – a decline of 1.1 per cent on 2016-17).  Dispensing practices currently take a 7.6 per cent share of all prescriptions dispensed in England (84.5m items).

In terms of applications to controlled areas, there were six granted (a success rate of 30 per cent) of which half were predicated on unforeseen benefits. In the market as a whole, most new premises applications (excluding change of ownership) relate to distance selling (14 per cent). In total, in 2017-18 there were 29 more distance-selling pharmacies approved to operate than in 2016-17.

Other key statistics:

  • 77 per cent of pharmacies provide NHS flu vaccinations (adults only)
  • 63 per cent of all items are dispensed via the Electronic Prescription Service

View the full spreadsheet.