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DH keeping an eye on temporary pharmacy closures, it confirms

The Department of Health and Social Care (DH) is “monitoring temporary closures of community pharmacies” and working to understand how it can support affected pharmacies and patients, it has told C+D.

It comes after the charity We Are With You – which offers services to help people make behavioural changes while coping with mental health, drug or alcohol issues – told C+D earlier this week that it had highlighted the impact of closures on service users to the DH.

A spokesperson for the DH confirmed to C+D yesterday (October 11) that it is “monitoring temporary closures of community pharmacies and…working with NHS England (NHSE) on what can be done to support community pharmacies and patients affected by those closures”.

C+D has approached NHSE for comment.

A continued debate on part and full-day pharmacy closures and the causes behind them has sparked different views in the community pharmacy sector.

In August, local pharmaceutical committee chiefs attributed the rising level of temporary pharmacy closures to inadequate investment and workforce shortages.

However, some locum pharmacists and the Pharmacists’ Defence Association (PDA) have questioned claims there is a shortage of pharmacists in the UK.

Read more: DH ‘monitoring’ impact of PCN pharmacist recruitment on community pharmacy

The debate has intensified in recent months, culminating in the PDA referring NHS England to the Information Commissioner’s Office in August, over alleged failures to share data on closures.

 

DH also monitoring permanent closures

 

The DH continues to monitor the community pharmacy market closely, including permanent closures, C+D understands.

According to the most recent data released by NHS Business Services Authority last year, England saw a net loss of 215 pharmacies in 2020/21, resulting in the lowest number of community pharmacies in six years.

However, the DH spokesperson told C+D that “there are over 11,000 community pharmacies in England, and 80% of the population live within a 20-minute walk from a pharmacy”.

Read more: Sector in crisis: Thousands of pharmacies at risk of closure as inflation bites

A report commissioned by the National Pharmacy Association last month revealed that up to 3,000 pharmacies are at risk of closure by 2024 following years of flat NHS funding and mounting inflation.

Negotiations for years 4 and 5 of England's community pharmacy funding deal failed to attract extra cash.

While the government waived £100 million in excess margin for pharmacies in England, it did not budge on the £2.5 billion a year in funding it agreed with the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee as part of a multi-year deal in 2019.

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