Nearly half of community pharmacy contractors say their pharmacy is at risk of closing within the year, a report from the Parliamentary All-Party Pharmacy Group (APPG) on Pharmacy has found.
The report followed a “flash inquiry” by the APPG into the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on pharmacy and pharmacy teams.
As part of the inquiry, the APPG surveyed 1,604 pharmacy professionals, including pharmacy contractors (26%), pharmacy managers (23%), pharmacists (21%), pharmacy assistants (12%), pharmacy technicians (10%) and respondents from other pharmacy roles (9%).
Of the pharmacy contractors who responded to the survey, 47% said it was either very likely, likely or somewhat likely that their pharmacy would need to close in the coming year.
More than three-quarters (79%) of pharmacy contractors said the £370m in advance payments provided by the government to cover COVID-19 costs was not enough to mitigate the financial pressures of the pandemic.
The report, published on 14 December 2020, warned that the pressures faced by community pharmacies will cause “irreparable damage” to the sector in England, with the advanced funding failing to cover pharmacies’ pandemic-related costs.
It added that the government should “consider boosting overall funding in recognition of both the great financial pressures faced and the huge contribution made to frontline healthcare during the pandemic”.
“It is clear that current funding levels may already be causing irreparable damage to pharmacies and without some kind of reform the number of pharmacies in England could substantially decrease,” the report continued.
Jackie Doyle-Price, chair of the APPG, said: “The public rightly recognise pharmacy teams continue to lift heaven and earth to remain open and ensure the safe supply of medicines during the pandemic.
“But people would be shocked to hear that unprecedented financial pressure is now pushing many pharmacies to close. The innovations and adaptations quickly put in place by pharmacy teams demonstrate the unique skills pharmacists have to do even more.”
Claire Anderson, chair of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) English Pharmacy Board, said the RPS was continuing “to back calls for sustainable funding in community pharmacy”.
“We know that teams were already under pressure and that colleagues in community pharmacy are feeling added financial strain,” she said.
Leyla Hannbeck, chief executive of the Association of Independent Multiple Pharmacies (AIM), said the survey results “are in line with what we have been outlining as an organisation; that the £370m advanced payment should be written off in full and that the sector should be given the support and recognition that it so thoroughly deserves”.
“Our members have recently had visits from the chancellor Rishi Sunak and financial secretary to the treasury, Jesse Norman, and both have expressed their support for community pharmacy and the important role pharmacy teams have played in the pandemic,” she said, adding that AIM is “keen to see a decision from the treasury as soon as possible in regards to the funding”.
In November 2020, the government said it was considering writing off the £370m advance payments, following requests from the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee.
The report comes after campaign group 38 Degrees launched a petition, gathering more than 4,000 signatures in three days, for additional funding to support community pharmacies with the cost of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Mark Lyonette, chief executive of the National Pharmacy Association, said the APPG’s report “represents a growing body of opinion in parliament, across the political spectrum, that pharmacies are not getting the support they need and that action is needed immediately”.