Several thousand English community pharmacies are likely to close during the next few years, a report has warned.
Protecting UK Public Interests in NHS Community Pharmacy concludes that the proportion of English NHS funding allocated to community pharmacy remuneration will fall by over a third between 2015 and 2024.
The report notes that per person there are now 10 per cent fewer community pharmacies in England than in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. For the UK as a whole the number of community pharmacies per capita is now over 25 percent below the OECD average.
The report, commissioned by pharmacy membership body the National Pharmacy Association, blames factors such as radical cuts in pharmacy remuneration in England, and high inflation rates. This has resulted in a shrinking in the value of the pharmacy contract of a quarter since 2015. This represents the lowest percentage of total health spending since 1948.
However, recently, pharmacies in England were allowed to retain £100 million of a previous medicines purchasing ‘over-payment’.
Report authors David Taylor, Emeritus Professor of Pharmaceutical and Public Health Policy at the UCL School of Pharmacy and Dr Panos Kanavos, Associate Professor of International Health Policy in the Department of Health Policy at the London School of Economics and Political Science describe this as an “existential threat” to the network and conclude: “Such closures would impede medicines supply, threaten treatment safety and reduce opportunities for better NHS care.”
They added: “Community pharmacy should not seek special treatment. But there is a strong case for reducing the risk of closures that would be damaging to public interests in better health.”