- They should prescribe some drugs themselves, the government and the NHS want
Plans for pharmacies to provide more NHS care are at risk amid widespread closures, MPs are warned today.
The Government and NHS England want pharmacies to ease the pressure on GPs by carrying out more medical checks and prescribing some medicines themselves.
But the Corporate Chemists Association (CCA), the trade body for chains such as Boots and Superdrug, said a lack of funding and staff could scupper the move.
Chief executive Malcolm Harrison will today tell MPs on the House of Commons health and social care committee that there has been a net loss of 1,008 pharmacies in England since 2015.
In this financial year alone, an average of eight pharmacies have closed each week and others are struggling to survive, CCA analysis reveals.
The Government and NHS England want pharmacies to ease the pressure on GPs by carrying out more checks and prescribing some medicines themselves (file image)
Disadvantaged areas are the most reliant on pharmacies, but have been hardest hit by closures: 37.5 percent of people who closed their doors between 2015 and June 2023 were in the poorest 20 percent. from the country.
The NHS will launch a Pharmacy First scheme early next year, which would direct patients to pharmacies for care in the hope of freeing up ten million GP appointments.
Pharmacists could provide NHS-funded advice and treatment for seven common conditions: sinusitis, sore throat, middle ear infections, infected insect bites, impetigo, shingles and uncomplicated urinary tract infections in women.
The NHS also announced last week that millions of women would be able to get the contraceptive pill from a pharmacist without consulting a GP from next month.
However, the CCA said the NHS pharmacy budget has been cut in real terms since 2015-16, leaving each pharmacy £67,000 worse off each year.
This limits their ability to hire staff and expand their service, he adds.
Meanwhile, almost 4,000 community pharmacists have left their jobs to take up positions in GP surgeries, where they are used to carrying out medication checks on patients taking a cocktail of drugs.
Harrison told the Mail: ‘A toxic combination of funding, workforce and workload pressures is preventing pharmacies from delivering what the Government wants them to deliver.
‘Pharmacies are offering many more services and dispensing more medications for less and less money. This is simply unsustainable.”
It is estimated that around 89.2 percent of the population lives within a 20-minute walk of a pharmacy. But the CEC fears patients will be less likely to seek care if they have to travel further to be seen.
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: ‘Community pharmacies play a vital role in our healthcare system, supported by £2.6 billion a year.
“We have announced £645m funding to help community pharmacies supply prescription medicines for seven common conditions, without the patient needing to see a GP.”