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An overwhelming majority of pharmacists expect more pharmacy closures in 2020, according to a recent survey.

A total of 93 per cent of those who responded to a National Pharmacy Association-supported survey said they believe it is not a good time to open a pharmacy.

The State of Pharmacy 2020 report by Medicspot shows that 80 per cent pharmacists are fearful about the changes on the horizon.

Almost 60 per cent of them viewed gross margins being squeezed as the biggest threat this year, followed by adapting to the new five-year NHS pharmacy contract and competition from online pharmacies.

Worries over Brexit and medicine supply were also weighing on pharmacists across the UK.

Mark Lyonette, CEO of the NPA, said: “Many pharmacies are struggling because of a combination of squeezed funding, medicines shortages and inflated prices. Funding is not keeping pace with escalating costs”.

“Maintaining cash flow is a problem for a lot of independents in these circumstances. But pharmacists are trusted professionals and community pharmacies provide an excellent service that patients need and value. This underpins our confidence that there is a commercially viable and professionally rewarding long term future for the sector,” Lyonette said.

In 2020, pharmacists hope to dispense more private prescriptions and 82 per cent are also interested in offering private doctor consultations from their pharmacy.

Over 81 per cent have plans to offer prescription delivery this year, of which eight in ten said they would offer it for free.

The survey further revealed that the majority of the pharmacists still consider online dispensing as a threat rather than an opportunity though they are aware of the importance of having an online presence.

“Pharmacies are offering services such as free home delivery in an attempt to preserve market share. They have to compete with not only community pharmacies, but also online pharmacies who offer free delivery. Hence, I don’t see the trend of offering free delivery reversing, but it might be beneficial for pharmacy owners to look at the economics of offering the service – higher script volume doesn’t always filter down to the bottom line.” said Dr Zubair Ahmed, CEO of Medicspot.

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