Tens of thousands of Brits could soon be without local pharmacy unless the government provides emergency funds for a sector at “crisis point”, pharmacists have warned.
Thousands of community pharmacies across the country are on the brink of closure as the state increasingly leaves them out of pocket for the drugs they dispense to their patients, a trade association said.
The National Pharmacy Association (NPA) has called on the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) to provide urgent support to pharmacies struggling to keep their doors open as a result of the often huge disparities between the amounts of money they spend on drugs and the amount they are reimbursed.
Their petition comes after Health Secretary Steve Barclay suggested that overburdened pharmacies should be doing even more to help the NHS recover offering additional services.
Community pharmacists purchase drugs by negotiating directly with pharmaceutical wholesalers, paying whatever price a company commands to obtain the drug. They are then reimbursed a fee price, which is set monthly by the NHS on behalf of DHSC. This tariff price is often substantially less than the amount wholesalers have actually charged, meaning that pharmacists, who in turn cannot raise their own prices, must operate at a loss.
with hundreds of drugs currently in short supplywholesale prices for many of these products have skyrocketed, but the tariff price has not kept pace, a discrepancy that could prove to be “the last straw,” forcing thousands of pharmacists out of business.
“If you’re an independent pharmacist with one or two pharmacies, you’ll do anything to stay open, you’re embedded in the community. You will work until you drop, you will take money out of your own pocket to subsidize pharmacies,” said an NPA spokesperson.
“It used to be that they [pharmacists] could absorb the loss… Now, dispensing with loss could be the last straw.
“There has to be some form of emergency financing [for pharmacies] to keep things going.”
Pharmacists have taken on more responsibility since the pandemicwhen people started turning to them not only to fill their prescriptions, but also to get healthcare advice that they would normally seek from their GP. Many pharmacists are now much busier than before.but they cannot make a healthy profit.
NPA Chairman Andrew Lane said: “For years community pharmacies have been asked to do more and more work for less and less pay, and our capacity no longer matches the demands of the industry…If we continue This same course, thousands of pharmacies will be forced to close.
Speaking in the House of Commons on Monday, the Health Secretary outlined what the Government is doing to help the NHS cope with winter pressures.
Mr Barclay said there was “a lot more that our community pharmacists can support” to take the pressure off GPs.
“From the end of March, community pharmacies will receive referrals from urgent and emergency care centers, and later this year we will also begin offering oral contraceptive services,” he said.
DHSC said in a statement: “Community pharmacies play a vital role in our healthcare system and we support them with £2.6bn a year. On top of this, we have announced a further £100m investment in the sector to help support the services.
He added: “We are carefully monitoring access to pharmaceutical services and… continue to work with the Pharmaceutical Services Bargaining Committee to ensure that pharmacy contractors are paid fairly when prices rise.”