Hundreds of community pharmacies ‘could close due to rising costs’ | UK News
When Amish Patel followed his father into the pharmacy business, he hoped it would be a job for life.
But with the cost of everything from medicines to energy rising, it has become increasingly difficult to pay the bills.
“In 2020 my pharmacy made the first ever loss in its business profits, which for a pharmacy that’s established in 1985, we’ve got no loans in our business, it’s really worrying,” he said.
“That year, we made a decision to invest in private services, and that’s kept us going.
“But the forecast has now shown that in the next two, three years, I’m going to make continual losses, unless the government does something drastic to increase our funding we’ll be out of business.”
Like other community pharmacies, Mr Patel’s Hodgson Pharmacy in Longfield, Kent, is a private contractor which receives the vast majority of its income from the NHS.
A five-year contract was agreed with NHS England and the government in 2019, but pharmacists say it’s no match for the rise in prices.
Pharmacies ‘don’t have funding to stay afloat’
“We’ve been left with a contract that doesn’t take into account any inflation or any cost of living,” said Leyla Hannbeck, chief executive of the Association of Independent Multiple Pharmacies.
“Pharmacies are under a lot of pressure at the moment, all pharmacies are.
“The cost of medicines is rising, they simply do not have the funding to keep them afloat.”
Her organisation estimates that since 2015, 800 pharmacies have closed their doors permanently (and only 100 new ones opened), and that 600 more may close this year alone.
‘You won’t get accessible service’
That, Ms Hannbeck says, will pile more pressure on local GP and A&E services.
“After a local pharmacy closes, you won’t be able to get the accessible service,” she warned.
“You’re going to have to travel further, or you can put more pressure on the NHS if nothing gets done about it
“It’s mainly the elderly and the vulnerable and those in areas of deprivation that are going to be suffering.”
Ms Hannbeck added that with current funding, it won’t be possible for pharmacists to take on more duties in order to relieve overstretched NHS services.
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “Community pharmacies play a vital role in our health care system, and we back them with £2.6bn a year. On top of this, we have announced a further £100m investment in the sector to help support services.
“Around 80% of the population live within a 20-minute walk of a pharmacy, and there are twice as many pharmacies in the more deprived areas.”