Pharmacy bosses have hit out after documents confirmed fears local chemists could close if funding was cut.
An impact assessment of the ‘Community Pharmacy Contractual Framework for 2019/20 to 2023/24’ described how the five-year deal would “create winners and losers across pharmacy contractors”.
The Government was warned some chemists could “become financially unviable and close” under the five-year community pharmacy contract, according to a freedom of information request from The Pharmaceutical Journal.
National Pharmacy Association chairman Andrew Lane told the Mirror tonight: “This document proves that the Government knew pharmacy closures were possible as a result of funding cuts.
“What’s more, it cannot predict where the axe will fall, meaning that even those communities most in need of local health care facilities could lose out.
“Pharmacies have played a vital part in the nation’s response to coronavirus, and we also want to help get the country back on its feet again, including playing a key role in assisting the rollout of the vaccination programme.
“At this moment of crisis for the country, there should be more, not less, investment in frontline health services like pharmacies.
“Local independent pharmacies are running on empty. All we’re asking for is investment sufficient to keep our doors open and our patients safe and well.”
Community chemists played a crucial role in the first Covid-19 wave.
Pharmacies free up 492,000 GP visits a week by giving free advice to patients.
They routinely offer face-to-face consultations – while doctors see eight in 10 patients remotely.
They also reduce typical surgery workloads by 65 patient appointments each.
A report in September found up to 6,500 family-owned chemists across England could close in the next four years.
The study by accountancy firm Ernst & Young predicted 72% of independent outlets would lose money within four years.
Its report found community chemists are underfunded by £497million a year.
Despite their crucial role, they are still a tiny proportion of England’s healthcare costs – making up just 2.3% of total NHS England spending.
NHS funding makes up around 87% of revenues received by pharmacy services, with other income from over-the-counter sales and services commissioned by councils.
But 28% were already making a loss in 2019 and the report estimated the average pharmacy will be making an annual loss of £43,000 by 2024.
A Department of Health spokesman said: “The Community Pharmacy Contractual Framework five-year deal was agreed with the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee and commits £2.592billion annually to the sector, allowing pharmacies to deliver more clinical services and become the first port of call for minor illnesses.
“To support community pharmacies during the Covid-19 pandemic we have also made £370million in advance payments to support pharmacies in maintaining medicine supplies and providing health advice.”
The Mirror is campaigning to save family chemists.