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134 pharmacies have closed since funding cuts imposed, DH reveals

DH: The 134 figure does not include distance-selling pharmacies
DH: The 134 figure does not include distance-selling pharmacies

One hundred and thirty-four pharmacies have closed since the funding cuts were imposed in England, the Department of Health and Social Care (DH) has told the High Court.

UPDATE – May 25

The government has since revealed that a total of 156 pharmacies did in fact close in England between November 2016 and April 2018. Read the latest story here.


James Eadie QC – the lawyer representing the DH in pharmacy's appeal against the funding cuts – said the 134 pharmacies that closed between April 2016 and April 2018 do not include distance-selling pharmacies that may have closed during this period.

Mr Eadie argued the DH did not know how many pharmacies would close as a result of the 12% cut to the sector’s funding in England, and the decision was based on the need to save NHS costs and drive efficiencies.

“This was about macro-market efficiency. If some [pharmacies] that are less efficient go to the wall, then so be it,” Mr Eadie said in the Royal Courts of Justice today (May 23).

C+D has contacted the DH for further details about the closures.

Reported closures so far

C+D has so far confirmed the locations of 31 Lloydspharmacy branches that have closed as a result of the funding cuts – part of the 190 pharmacies the multiple deemed “commercially unviable”.

Only last week, Rowlands revealed to C+D that it is considering “reducing its branch network” because of the “draconian” cuts to pharmacy funding in England.

Last November, pharmacy chain PCT Healthcare confirmed to C+D it had made the “difficult decision” to close two branches due to “continuing attrition”.

C+D digital reporter Thomas Cox (@CandDThomas) has been reporting live from the court for the duration of the funding cuts appeal. Catch up on events from the first day here, and today’s proceedings here. You can also follow the action on Twitter using the hashtag #CutsInCourt

Have any pharmacies closed in your area recently?

Jonny Johal, Pharmacy Area manager/ Operations Manager

Richard, the sad truth is we have too many pharmacies and pharmacists, I don't think the taxpayer should keep unviable pharmacies solvant while there are homeless servicemen on the streets. Companies like Rowlands are interested, only, in profits for their owners/shareholders who may or may not even be pharmacists. The NHS is a patient benefits orgainisation, not a charity for pharmacy contractors, nor does the taxpayer have a duty to preserve the lifestyle of pharmacy contractors. We all have to accept there is an economic reality out there.

Sandra Wiles, Community pharmacist

The NHS could choose to 'nationalise' pharmacies to overcome the issues you raise.

They would then have to pay NHS pension rates, rent, business rates and a whole host of other overheads. Have you seen any sign that the main political parties are thinking this? 

A.S. Singh, Community pharmacist

expect the amount needed to fund pharmacies to double - nationalisation would show how good a job pharmacists are currently doing in this NHS

Adam Hall, Community pharmacist

I understand what you are saying but no-one appears to worry about taking the same approach with GPs, and even less so with Dispensing Doctors who get two bites at the NHS cherry

P M, Community pharmacist

once the small players are gone watch the costs go up.

Jonny Johal, Pharmacy Area manager/ Operations Manager

The current situation is a combination of structural change in Pharmacy, and contractors greed. "Structural change" I am referring to is the change in proprietory pharmacists/employee pharmacists ratio in the last 50 years. Pharmacists contractors went from about 90% of the registered population to now ... 80% + employed (I don't know the exact figures). This in itself created divergence within the profession, many would argue that what is good for contractors may not be good for pharmacists (generally speaking). The "greed" I referred to started from the days of 'oncost', when pharmacies were paid a margin. To maximise their profits, contractors then grouped together, and Boots was the main culprit, unilaterally ignored wholesale price maintenance, Unichem, AAH and major wholesalers started discounting which led to the clawbacks. Once the government realised that clawbacks can be used to control their costs, oncost was abolished and PSNC became irrelevant, then retail price maintenance was abolished by the government - the free market economy started to bite.

In short, PM, contractors reap what they sowed. I would much prefer the Australian system where only pharmacists can own pharmacies, cheaper for the taxpayer too.

Delectable Skeptic, Community pharmacist

"I would much prefer the Australian system where only pharmacists can own pharmacies, cheaper for the taxpayer too."

Make that the Oz system 20 years ago.  High flying accountants have enabled a workaround so that one chain, Chemist Warehouse, now spends over £50 million on marketing alone.  Sadly going the way of the UK.  Many European countries still have the model you speak of though.

Jonny Johal, Pharmacy Area manager/ Operations Manager

PS I blame the greedy multiples who don't look after their pharmacists for the decline in the profession. They are always late to take on new technology and ideas - just see how long it took the profession to 'computerise' in the 80's, short term profits always come first, and they never trickle down to modernisation or the shop floor. Employee pharmacists is a 'professional cost' on their balance sheet, hence always looking for cheaper ways to do the job eg technicians dispensing, remote supervision, spokes and hub etc etc ...

Contractors have organisations like the PSNC, NPA, GPhC etc to represent them, while the employee pharmacists have no one (don't be fooled by the PDA, which is a commercial organisation).

Richard MacLeavy, Dispenser Manager/ Dispensing Assistant

How can DH argue that 1. They don't know how many pharmacies will close and 2. that they have conducted a sufficient impact assesment. These are contradictory statements. Also the arguement about Macro market effeciency is rubbish. Firstly there are a number of pharmacies that cannot be more effecient, rural pharmacies in low population areas for example cannot drive volume in any way as they have virtually 100% market share of the only surgery in the village. How can these pharmacies drive effeciency? Secondly pharmacy is the most effecient part of the NHS. We offer the most cost effective outcome for patients. If pharmacies close, more people visit A+E and therefore the cost of treating these patients increase thereby driving inefficiency in the NHS. They would have discovered this themselves if they had conducted a sufficient impact assesment.

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