Some 155 community pharmacies have closed in England in the first eight months of 2020, according to data published by NHS Digital.
The data, published on 28 August 2020 and analysed by The Pharmaceutical Journal, also revealed that in that time 19 pharmacies have opened, leaving a net closure of 136 community pharmacies in 2020 so far.
This represents a 77% increase on the net number of pharmacy closures in the first eight months of 2019, when 111 pharmacies closed but 34 opened — leaving a net loss of 77 pharmacies to the sector — and is more than double the net number of pharmacies that closed in the first five months of the year (67).
However, the rate of increase in closures matches 2019, when there were 34 net closures by the end of the May and a further 43 net closures in the following three months.
Leyla Hannbeck, chief executive of the Association of Independent Multiple Pharmacies, said the closures were “the tip of an iceberg”.
“Pharmacies have been putting off the inevitable by under-investing in their businesses and liquidating assets to survive,” she told The Pharmaceutical Journal.
“There are encouraging words coming from the government in regards to the important role community pharmacies play as front door to the NHS, and we demonstrated during the COVID-19 that we truly are the front door to the NHS and a key part of primary care; as such we need the urgent support of the decision-makers to continue being there for patients and deliver care,” she continued.
“Without that urgent support community pharmacy service provision will suffer and communities will lose out.”
The data follows a report by EY, which warned that up to 85% of community pharmacies in England will be in financial deficit by 2024, with the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee warning that it is seeing increasing “branch closures in the larger chains”.
Of the closures listed by NHS Digital, 79 belonged to Boots, 9 were LloydsPharmacy branches, 5 were from Well and another 5 from Rowlands.
In July 2020, LloydsPharmacy announced that it had placed some roles “at risk of redundancy”, owing to income losses and the impact of COVID-19.