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'Unprecedented closures': Pharmacy leaders press Sunak for cash injection

Pharmacy leaders have written to Prime Minister Rishi Sunak urging him to invest in the sector, in the latest move to lobby the government for funding.

The letter called on Mr Sunak to “resolve the funding, workforce and capacity crises that are engulfing community pharmacy business of all sizes”.

Read more: UPDATED: Tesco reveals proposals to close eight in-store pharmacies

It was signed by the chief executives of the Association of Independent Multiple Pharmacies (AIMp), Company Chemists’ Association (CCA), National Pharmacy Association (NPA) and Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC), along with multiples Boots, Lloydspharmacy, Well and Rowlands parent company Phoenix.

It comes after the same group last month penned a letter to health secretary Steve Barclay, warning that pharmacies are making losses and “struggling to survive”.

 

“Unprecedented closures”

 

The letter stressed that an urgent cash injection is needed to prevent “large numbers” of permanent pharmacy closures.

“Without urgent intervention, we are moving towards large numbers of permanent pharmacy closures, putting the safe supply of prescription medicines at risk,” it said.

Read more: UPDATED: Asda proposes closing seven pharmacies

The government can “empower pharmacies to do more by providing a blueprint for the future of the community pharmacy network, backed by investment” or it can “continue down the path of squeezing the sector’s funding”, the letter added.

It warned that the latter would mean the sector will “face unprecedented and unplanned closures, with serious consequences for patients”.

Read more: Multiples offloading branches is ‘positive’, pharmacy broker says

The letter stressed that 30% funding cuts over the last seven years have pushed pharmacists to their “limit operationally.”

“Many pharmacy owners believe their businesses will not survive 2023 and the constraints are already degrading patient services,” it added.

 

Additional services?

 

Meanwhile, the pharmacy leaders said they “look forward to seeing the upcoming primary care recovery plan” – which is set to reveal government plans for pharmacists to do “even more”.

They added that they “very much agree” that “pharmacies could provide additional services to help ease pressures in other parts of the system”.

Read more: PSNC kicks off ‘proper discussions’ on Pharmacy First with DH

“But we are clear that unless the plans for community pharmacy include steps to put us on a sustainable footing, we won’t reach our full potential in helping with your goals for the health service,” they said.

Earlier this month, a health minister said that the government’s plan to make further use of pharmacies to ease pressure on the NHS “will put more funding their way”.

 

“Irreversible decline”

 

NPA chief executive Mark Lyonette said: “We’ve told the health secretary about the great care pharmacies provide, we’ve shown the chancellor that it’s value for money and now we’re warning the Prime Minister that key services are at risk.

“They have a shared responsibility to invest in community pharmacies, make the choice to back us and prevent the sector from spiralling into irreversible decline.”

The government must “get the consistent message that everyone in community pharmacy is under intolerable pressure”, he added.

Read more: APPG calls for ‘urgent action to relieve pharmacy funding pressure’

Community pharmacy “is at its most difficult period”, AIMp chief executive Dr Leyla Hannbeck said.

“The decision is now in the hands of the Prime Minister to reverse the trend of permanent pharmacy closures by properly funding pharmacies,” CCA chief executive Malcolm Harrison added.

 

Community pharmacy bodies this month joined forces to “step up” their efforts to lobby the government for fairer community pharmacy funding and a financially backed Pharmacy First service in England.

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