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Pharmacy closures: Lowest number of pharmacies in England since 2015

England saw a net loss of 110 pharmacies in 2021/22, resulting in the lowest number of community pharmacies in seven years, NHS data has revealed.

A total of 418 community pharmacies closed in 2021/22 financial year, while 308 opened during the same period, resulting in a net loss of 110, according to new figures published today (October 13) by the NHS Business Services Authority (NHS BSA).

The General Pharmaceutical Services in England 2015/16 – 2021/22 report explored the activities carried out by community pharmacies and appliance contractors in England, along with their associated costs, over a seven year period – from 2015/16 to 2021/22.

It found that the number of community pharmacies in England has dropped to its lowest figure since 2015, with 11,522 currently open.

This marks a 3.6% decrease on 2015/16 levels, when there were 11,949 community pharmacies and marginally more pharmacies opened (252) than closed (248).

The number of pharmacies closing has consistently outpaced the numbers of pharmacies opening for the past six years, according to the NHS BSA data.

The latest figures are “the lowest total since 2015/16”, the report said.



Increase in distance-selling pharmacies


The report also found the most significant drop yet in the number of “multiple contractors” – which NHS BSA defines as “consisting of six pharmacies or more”.

This figure was 6,779 in 2021/2022, almost 5% lower compared with the 7,122 total of multiple pharmacies in 2015/2016.

Meanwhile, the number of independent contractors – with five pharmacies or fewer – has fallen by 1.7% from 4,827 in 2015/16 to 4,743 in 2021/22.

However, it does represent an increase of almost 1% on the 4,697 total number of premises reported in 2020/2021.

The number of distance-selling pharmacies (DSPs) in England slightly increased by 0.8% in a year, rising from 372 in 2012/21 to 375 in 2021/22.

The total number of DSPs in 2021/22 has gone back to 2018/2019 levels. But when compared with the 2015/16 total – when there were just 127 DSPs – last year’s figure represents a monumental increase of more than 195%.

The figures released today follow a report commissioned by the National Pharmacy Association last month, which warned that up to 3,000 pharmacies are at risk of closure by 2024 following years of flat NHS funding and mounting inflation.


Over 1bn prescription items dispensed


According to the NHS BSA's data, the total number of prescription items dispensed rose to its highest level in seven years in 2021/2022.

Some 1.04 billion prescription items were dispensed by community pharmacies and appliance contractors in England in 2021/22. This is a 2.6% increase from the 1.02 billion items dispensed in 2020/2021 and 4.8% rise on the levels seen in 2015/2016, when 995 million were dispensed.

Additionally, 9,868 pharmacies provided the NHS Community Pharmacist Consultation Service (CPCS) in 2021/22, receiving CPCS fees totalling £12.5 million.

The number of pharmacies offering the CPCS decreased by 1.6% compared to the 2020/2021 total of 10,029 pharmacies. But the 2021/22 figure marks an increase of 14.2% on the 8,644 pharmacies recorded in 2019/2020, when the service launched.

Meanwhile, NHS England revealed last week that just in the month of June, pharmacies in England had carried out more than 100,000 CPCS consultations for minor illnesses – such as sore throat or constipation – or for patients needing medicines urgently.

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