"The challenge we have at the moment is that, let’s be clear, there are too many pharmacies,” Jay Patel said during a session on the five-year funding deal for community pharmacy in England at last week’s National Pharmacy Association (NPA) conference.
“I don’t like to say it but there are [too many pharmacies] and I believe there are pharmacies out there that are not delivering services in the first place,” he commented during a presentation at the NPA session on Thursday evening (July 16).
There needs to be “some rationalisation of the numbers” of community pharmacies, Mr Patel added. According to NHS Digital data published in November last year, there were 11,539 community pharmacies in England in 2018/19.
“You can’t protect everybody”, Mr Patel said, adding that “good contractors who are delivering services can’t be held back by this perception that we don’t deliver”.
Referring to the £2.592 billion a year funding confirmed for community pharmacy until 2023/24, he suggested the sector needs to “look at how the funding is distributed and maybe look at [having] less pharmacies” in order to make the most of what is available. It would be a case of “rebalancing the estate”, he added.
“Get united as a community of pharmacies”
Urging unity within the sector, Mr Patel said the conflict of “independents versus multiples” is “taking [us] back 10 years”.
“I think what is happening at the moment is that all contractors are up against it and unfortunately, when things wo wrong, we have a habit of wanting to pass the blame and point the finger at somebody else,” he said.
What the sector needs instead is to “get united as a community of pharmacies” to “build a relationship with the government” and face “the real disruptors”, which he named as distance-selling pharmacies.
“If you want to draw battle lines, draw them along the lines of bricks and mortar local [pharmacies] versus distance-selling internet pharmacy,” he said.
Mr Patel described Day Lewis, which operates more than 300 pharmacies across the UK, as “an independent”, as opposed to the large multiples such as Boots and Lloydspharmacy.