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Closure of more than 450 community pharmacies during 2020-21 has dragged the total number of active contractors in England to the lowest level since 2015-16, latest data published by the NHS Business Services Authority (NHSBSA) revealed.

In 2020-21, there were 11,600 active community pharmacies and 112 active appliance contractors in England, NHSBSA stated.

It said: “236 new pharmacies opened during 2020-21, while 451 closed. This is the lowest number of active contractors since 2015-16.”

The General Pharmaceutical Services in England 2015-16 – 2020-21 report, published today (October 28), looked at the activities carried out by community pharmacies and appliance contractors in England over the last six years.

The report showed on-year drop of 1.79 per cent in dispensing of prescription items by community pharmacies and appliance contractors in England in 2020-21 to 1.03 billion.

Meanwhile, 964 million prescription items were dispensed via the electronic prescription service (EPS) during the year, accounting for 93.9 per cent of all items dispensed in 2020-21 by community pharmacies.

Despite the reduction in dispensed items in 2020-21, total reimbursement of drugs and appliances cost to pharmacies and appliance contractors touched “a six year high.”

Reimbursement to pharmacies and appliance contractors totalled £8.97 billion in 2020-21, 3.72 per cent higher than £8.65 billion in 2019-20.

Highlighting the support and contribution made by pharmacies in the seasonal flu vaccination programme, the report stated: “2.77 million seasonal influenza vaccines were administered by community pharmacies in 2020-21.

“This was a 60.9 per cent increase from the 1.72 million vaccines administered in 2019-2020 and a 365 per cent increase on the 595 thousand vaccines administered in 2015-16.”

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