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Pharmacy closures spell trouble for healthcare suppliers and patients

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With more than 350 closures in the past year alone, patients are facing difficulties in collecting their prescriptions

The escalating number of pharmacy closures across the UK has set off alarm bells among healthcare professionals and industry stakeholders alike.

According to recent findings from the Company Chemists’ Association (CCA), the tally of operational community pharmacies within NHS England hit a dismal low of 11,414 during the financial year 2022/2023. This drop, fueled by a net loss of 388 pharmacies, marks the lowest figure since 2015/16.

The CCA report further reveals a distressing trend: the rate of net closures is accelerating, with an average of eight pharmacies shutting down every week. Compounding the issue, over a third of these closures—37.5 per cent—have occurred in England’s most economically disadvantaged areas.

These revelations underscore the urgent need for action within the pharmaceutical supply chain. As pharmacies vanish from the high street, suppliers and distributors are grappling with disrupted distribution networks and dwindling avenues for product placement.

The recent closure of Lloyds Pharmacy outlets, a fixture on many UK high streets, has sent shockwaves through the industry.

With more than 350 closures in the past year alone, including the shuttering of all 237 Lloyds branches housed within Sainsbury’s supermarkets, the move has left patients and suppliers alike in limbo.

CCA chief executive Malcolm Harrison expressed grave concern over the news, stating that it could potentially impact the accessibility of medicines.

He noted that the exit of such a major player should serve as a “wake-up call” to both the government and the NHS.

Highlighting that pharmacies presently dispense over one billion NHS medicines annually to patients, he remarked that the ongoing closure of pharmacies will further degrade access to medicines and other critical primary care services.

Meanwhile, patients have conveyed to The Telegraph that they have been facing difficulties in collecting their prescriptions because there was no pharmacist available to dispense them.

Additionally, the pharmacy-led health and beauty retailer, Boots, put out a list of pharmacies shutting down in the beginning of 2024 as it moves forward with its plan to close 300 stores.

As the healthcare landscape evolves, continued delivery of vital medical products and services to communities across the UK remains a cause of concern for both, pharmacies and patients alike.

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