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Too many pharmacies, says England’s chief pharmacist

Practice The number of pharmacies in England could lead to a “survival of the fittest” scenario, warned Keith Ridge (pictured), ahead of the publication of an RPS report on the future of the sector today

The sheer number of pharmacies in England could lead to a "survival of the fittest" scenario, NHS England's chief pharmaceutical officer Keith Ridge has warned.


Speaking ahead of the launch of a Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) report on the future of pharmacy yesterday (November 5), Dr Ridge said the government would need to "think carefully" about cutting the number of pharmacies.


"There are too many pharmacies," he said, responding to the report's concerns about the "overcrowded" market. "I think there's a need to think carefully about a transition to getting the right number of pharmacies, through the pharmaceutical needs assessment."


A "survival of the fittest" scenario could be healthy for pharmacy, said NHS England's chief pharmaceutical officer Keith Ridge

More on the future of pharmacy

Pharmacy must 'punch its weight', warns NHS policy expert

The supply vs service debate

Government will cut numbers if pharmacies don't up their services, PSNC warns

"But in among all that is [the potential for the] ‘survival of the fittest' – that, in many ways, is quite healthy, too," Dr Ridge added.


The RPS report Now or Never: Shaping Pharmacy for the Future warned that many pharmacies could close unless the sector assumed an extended role in patient care.


Judith Smith, the report's author and director of policy at think tank the Nuffield Trust, said pharmacies that were unwilling to play a greater service role could face tough times. But she suggested there could be an option to create separate contracts for supply and services to create "two tiers" of pharmacies.


"I think the conclusion is it may not necessarily be a bad thing if some pharmacists want to contract to do one part of [the role]," Dr Smith argued.


But Simon O'Neill, director of health and professional liaison at Diabetes UK, said patients might shun pharmacies that did not provide a wider range of services. "[Pharmacies] may find patients vote with their feet and go somewhere else," he warned. "If I go to a pharmacist who gives me extra advice and support that I don't have time to get from the GP, I'm much more likely to go back to that pharmacist."


Last month, PSNC chief executive Sue Sharpe warned that the government would look to cut pharmacy numbers unless the sector proved its worth through expanded services.


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