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The trade bodies and four largest pharmacy chains in England, have jointly written to the Secretary of State for Health, Steve Barclay, warning that the sector needs urgent investment for sustainability.

The letter from AIMp, CCA, NPA, PSNC, Boots UK, Lloyds Pharmacy, Well, and Phoenix UK, warned that the 30 per cent real terms funding cuts that pharmacies have faced over the past seven years have left many businesses in a cashflow crisis.

The letter said that the government is facing a choice over the future of the country’s 11,000+ community pharmacies, with permanent closures likely and medicines supply at risk if no urgent action is taken.

“If the funding situation is not addressed, the sector is likely to move rapidly towards many permanent closures of pharmacies.”

The organisations say that once these closures start, they will be hard to stop, as the sector is now so fragile other pharmacies would struggle to pick up the slack.

On the other hand, if the Secretary of State chooses to invest in community pharmacies, they can do much to deliver cost-effective solutions for patients and the NHS more widely.

Janet Morrison, PSNC Chief Executive, said: “We have set out this picture to officials and to the pharmacy Minister, and we are pleased to have been able to work with so many others across the sector to give this united message to the Secretary of State. Government now faces a choice about community pharmacy’s future: we and the other signatories to this letter will keep working tirelessly together to ensure they make the right one. We believe that what is right for pharmacies is right for patients and right for the wider NHS.”

Dr Leyla Hannbeck, the Chief Executive of AIM, said: “Pharmacies are struggling to pay their bills. They are making losses, who can continue to survive if they are making losses? It is not just hospitals and GPs that are under pressure, it’s our pharmacies as well. We have continuously kept our doors open delivering accessible care supporting the NHS; but we are reaching a breaking point. If the Secretary of State and the NHS decision makers want that accessible care to continue to be there for vulnerable patients then they must act with urgency.”

Malcolm Harrison, the Chief Executive of the CCA said: “The sector has the potential to reduce GP waiting times and hospital re-admissions. But the decision now lies with the Secretary of State, to unlock the true potential of community pharmacies. Not investing in the sector will mean the continued erosion of service, and ultimately the permanent closure of many more community pharmacies, which will add to the already pressurized health system.”

Andrew Lane, NPA Chair, said: “We are showing the Health Secretary that we are united in our determination to take the right route – one that unlocks the full potential of community pharmacy and helps support the NHS more widely.”

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