Pharmacists say on they’re on a “sinking ship” because of funding cuts, staff shortages and increased demand and ask the government for an immediate cash injection.
Sky News reported that between July 2017 and July 2023, the number of operating pharmacies in England fell by 914 from 11,723 to 10,809.
Deprived communities, where the need is greatest, have seen the biggest decline. More than one in ten pharmacies have been lost in the poorest 20% of areas in the last six years.
That accounts for 40% of losses in that period.
Dr Leyla Hannbeck CEO of the Association of Independent Multiple Pharmacies says the situation is “awful, terrible” and “the worst it has been in years and years”.
It’s been caused by a combination of government funding cuts, rising rents and costs, staff shortages and supply problems, as well as increased patient demand.
The result is that pharmacists like Reena Barai in Sutton are wondering how long they can stay open.
“Currently, we’re in what I describe as a survival of the fittest,” she says. “Within community pharmacy, the majority of my colleagues really do feel like we’re on a sinking ship.”
“We want to be that front door to the NHS because we know that people go to the GPs or A&E unnecessarily for minor illnesses and they should be coming to the pharmacy. We really want to be that first port of call, but we’re struggling.”
A spokesperson for the Department of Health and Social Care said:
“We are carefully monitoring access to pharmaceutical services, but good access remains.
“We have announced £645m in additional funding in the Primary Care Recovery Plan and thousands more training places for pharmacists as part of the Long-Term Workforce Plan, on top of the £2.6bn we provide every year to the sector.”
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