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Closures 'skyrocketing' with ten a week closing in 2024, NPA warns

The National Pharmacy Association (NPA) has warned that pharmacy closures are more than 50% higher this year so far than the same time last year, with 10 closing per week on average.

The NPA today (May 15) warned that pharmacy closures are “skyrocketing” in 2024, with the number of closures 53% higher than the same stage last year - which it said was “the worst year in living memory”.

The membership body analysed NHS figures and found that between January and April this year, 177 bricks-and-mortar pharmacies closed compared to 116 in the same time period in 2023. 

Read more: Pharmacy closures in rural areas hit four-year peak, DH reveals

“This is the equivalent to 10 local pharmacies closing their doors every week so far this year,” it said.

The NPA added that “rising costs and declining real terms funding are resulting in the fastest rate of closures in decades – with real-terms funding having decreased by 40% over the last decade”.

Read more: Asda pharmacy set to close amid drop in footfall and locum ‘staffing gaps’

Pharmacies are “running out of options to stay afloat and will have to close their doors permanently without a real terms funding increase”, it said.

It called on the government to provide a “new deal” for pharmacies that “fills growing funding gaps, stabilises the network and stops the closures” - including community pharmacies receiving 2.5% of the NHS budget rather than the 1.6% they currently receive.

 

“Shocking and distressing”

 

NPA chief executive Paul Rees said that the figures are “absolutely shocking and distressing”.

“Community pharmacies face a perfect storm of rapidly declining levels of real-terms government funding and high levels of inflation – which is both increasing the cost of dispensing medicine and pushing many community pharmacies to the brink,” he added.

Read more: Lloydspharmacy liquidation: Jhoots branch third premises to be ‘repossessed’

And he said that pharmacies are “being left with the choice of closing their doors or drastically reducing the service they can offer their local communities, making it more difficult for millions of people to get advice and vital medication”.

“We need a new deal that delivers fair funding and provides an end to the mass closure of community pharmacies,” he added.

 

“On the brink of collapse”

 

Chief executive of Community Pharmacy England (CPE) Janet Morrison said that the analysis confirms the “stark reality” that “many pharmacy businesses are on the brink of collapse”.

“Years of financial and operational pressures are continuing to take their toll as the government and NHS financial squeeze on the sector is now pushing all community pharmacies to the edge,” she added.

Read more: CPE to audit ‘huge amount of unpaid work’ triggered by Pharmacy First

Morrison warned that “pharmacies up and down the country are being forced to take drastic action - such as closing temporarily, cutting opening hours, reviewing their estates, and, if they can, closing branches”.

She added that the “viability” of pharmacy businesses remains the negotiator’s “critical concern in funding discussions with policymakers”.

The next funding deal was due in March but is currently delayed. Negotiations continue between CPE and the government, with no official timetable in place for when an announcement can be expected.

 

Closures latest

 

Meanwhile, data presented in parliament last month revealed that pharmacy closures in rural areas have hit a four-year peak.

Last year saw 13 pharmacies close in England’s rural areas, while some 48 pharmacies in rural areas in England closed between 2019 and 2023.

Read more: Cuts, overdrafts and closures: Business becoming ‘impossible’ for contractors

At the same time, data analysis from the Company Chemists’ Association (CCA) also revealed a “record” high of 432 closures across the country in the last financial year - more than five times as many as the previous financial year, which saw a net of 78 closures in total.   

In March, C+D’s Salary Survey revealed that contractors were left struggling to “make ends meet” with the majority reporting a drop in profitability and their own take-home pay last year.

And last month, C+D revealed that since 2021, the number of qualified, trainee and student pharmacists seeking grants and support with debts, benefits and housing have skyrocketed.

 

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