Two-thirds of pharmacies reduce opening hours owing to funding cuts, says NPA

Analysis by the National Pharmacy Association shows pharmacies in England have reduced their opening hours by an average of 6.1 hours per week since 2015.
community pharmacy on street amid shops

Around two-thirds of pharmacies in England have had to cut their opening hours since 2015 owing to funding pressures, the National Pharmacy Association (NPA) has said.

The analysis of opening hours of a sample of 110 pharmacies in England between 2015 and 2024 showed that 63% have reduced their opening hours by an average of 6.1 hours per week.

The NPA’s findings come after an analysis by The Pharmaceutical Journal of opening hours of more than 10,000 pharmacies in England revealed that 22% reduced their hours between December 2022 and December 2023 by an average of 10.5 hours per week.

The NPA’s analysis also showed that 2.5% of the sampled pharmacies increased their hours between 2015 and 2024, while nearly 5% had shut their doors completely in that time.

In a statement, published on 20 June 2024, the NPA said that the reduction in opening hours had happened as a result of a 40% decline in funding for pharmacies in England over the past decade.

According to the Department of Health and Social Care, as of January 2023, community pharmacies in England have lost £1.6bn in funding since 2015/2016, owing to increases in inflation.

Paul Rees, chief executive of the NPA, said: “Many pharmacy owners will go to great lengths to keep their pharmacy open, including borrowing money from friends or family, remortgaging their own homes and reducing their opening hours.

“The current situation is unsustainable and, with three-quarters of pharmacies in the red, many are simply being pushed to the brink. A shocking 1,400 community pharmacies have closed in England in the last decade. There have also been closures in Wales and Northern Ireland — and there is now a real risk of closures in Scotland.”

Commenting on the analysis, Gordon Hockey, director of legal at Community Pharmacy England, said: “All pharmacy owners are facing significant financial and operational challenges, leaving them with no choice but to make tough decisions to keep their businesses going. The reductions in pharmacy opening hours are a disappointing but necessary consequence of the continuing financial squeeze on the sector.

“The next government and the NHS must take action to reverse the damage that historic funding cuts are causing.”

Rachel Power, chief executive of the Patients Association, said: “Community pharmacies are at the heart of their communities. The experience patients and carers have at their local pharmacy is very different to an appointment at the GP’s or hospital outpatients. To see pharmacies struggling is deeply worrying to us. Pharmacies know their communities well and we cannot allow closures of multiple pharmacies in any one area.”

Louise Ansari, chief executive of Healthwatch England, said: “People tell us what an essential source pharmacies are for advice, diagnosis, and getting minor health issues treated.

“They also help in reducing the pressure on GPs. When a pharmacy closes, it impacts communities, especially older people who are the most regular users and those who don’t have the means to travel to a pharmacy that is further away. The pharmacy sector and healthcare system must work together to provide the service people need.”

Last updated
The Pharmaceutical Journal, PJ, June 2024, Vol 312, No 7986;312(7986)::DOI:10.1211/PJ.2024.1.321614

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