Digital pharmacy app Charac has raised over £1 million in debt and equity, bringing total funding to date for the London-based startup to £2.5m.
Pharmacy Business understands while the majority of the new finance, worth about £1.2 million, comes from the National Pharmacy Association (NPA) coffer, the remainder is put forward by a number of individual pharmacy businesses.
The pharmacy sector is in a state of crisis, experiencing nearly two closures per week over the past two years, Charac said in a statement.
According to data from the NHS Business Services Authority, there are now only 11,026 community pharmacies in England, the lowest number since 2015. The current crisis is attributed to escalating operational costs, a shortage of staff, and diminished government financial support.
“In the long run, this is positive news,” said Santosh Sahu, owner of the app. “However, at present, many pharmacies are primarily concerned with their survival and will find it challenging to meet the Government’s envisioned expanded role for them. A significant number of Britain’s pharmacies are not yet equipped to take on this added responsibility.”
Charac’s statement further said that pharmacies will experience increased pressure after the Government’s much talked-about Pharmacy First scheme is rolled out in England. Under this new scheme, patients with various ailments, such as sore throats or shingles, will be directed to local pharmacies before seeking assistance from their GPs.
In 2022, the National Pharmacy Association (NPA), the trade association for 80 per cent of independent pharmacies across the UK, entered a strategic partnership with Charac, aiming to advance digital transition of independent community pharmacies.
“Our aim is also to help independents become more than a match for the national pharmacy chains in terms of their digital interface with patients,” Simon Tebbutt, Director of Membership, NPA told Pharmacy Business on Monday (September 11).
“Together, NPA, pharmacy owners and Charac will ensure that independent pharmacies can meet modern consumer expectations and adapt to the ever-evolving environment.”
Earlier, Charac secured a £1 million investment from Royal Mail, enabling direct home delivery of app-ordered prescriptions. The company said its discussions with prominent venture capitalist firms for additional funding were currently underway.
Meanwhile, Tebbutt emphasised that with this new investment, the NPA was strengthening its backing for innovation in the independent community pharmacy sector. “This stands as a clear strategic priority for the NPA and builds on prior successful investments in tech solutions, like Pro Delivery Manager,” he said.
Pharmacies embrace the app
Charac’s app is designed to address time constraints, improve efficiency, and support the growth of community pharmacies, while also enhancing recognition for their services. It enables pharmacists to handle repeat prescriptions, access patient records, schedule appointments, and conduct consultations.
“Charac’s approach to patient engagement and emphasis on sector digitalisation, viewed as key initiatives to enhance prospects, is gaining traction among a growing number of pharmacies,” the company said.
The app has already garnered over 400 participating pharmacies, a number the company expects will reach 2,000 by 2024. Presently, approximately 25,000 patients utilise Charac’s platform, and this figure is anticipated to surge to 100,000 by the end of the financial year in March 2024.
“Pharmacies that adopt innovative technology to increase capacity and offer clinical services will be better equipped to handle the sector’s workforce and financial pressures,” Tebbutt added.