Local pharmacies are set to close across the UK, although the number of pharmacies has dropped by 160 in the past two years. The news comes as many pharmacists fear they are being taken advantage of as they are expected to provide more services despite budget cuts.
There are currently 11,026 community chemists according to data from the NHS Enterprise Services Authority. This is the lowest number since 2015, driven by rising operating costs, staff shortages and reduced government financial support.
The decline in the number of pharmacies occurred despite increased patient demand. It also comes in defiance of plans for pharmacists to provide more services to eastern GP pressure.
Pharmacists warn that many local businesses could close without help. Although online services are available, many people rely on a local chemist for advice or to get a prescription.
A primary care access plan to improve and expand GP consultations will be released by the government on Tuesday. Another £240m has been announced by Ministers for operations to replace old phones with modern call systems and online tools.
Hopefully this will make it easier for patients to get in touch when they need it. Another part of the primary care plan is to include an expanded role for the pharmacist – however, there are concerns about feasibility.
Although actual funding has decreased, pharmacists are expected to provide more services – leaving many people feeling belittled. The government budget is estimated to have been cut by 30% over the past seven years, after accounting for inflation.
Speaking to the BBC, Sanjeev Panesar, who owns Pan Pharmacy in Birmingham, said he was concerned services could have to be cut and staff numbers might have to be reconsidered. He said the situation facing pharmacists was at “serious jeopardy” and that the business had had its “worst year ever”.
The business was founded by his parents and has just turned 40 years old. Mr. Panesar said: “Things are in serious jeopardy. This has been our worst year ever, where we lost. We had to make some real calls and decisions. difficult right now.”
Mr. Panesar has called on political leaders, including Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, whose mother runs a pharmacy, to visit the pharmacies. He wants them to see first-hand the pressures employees face to meet demand.
He said, “I want him to come and see what we do, how patients feel about what we offer and really, that this is serious, and the field is falling apart, and will collapse like a stack of dominoes, if there is no urgent intervention.”
New plan for pharmacies
Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee executive director Janet Morrison said she hoped the new plan would address longstanding issues. “What people have learned during the pandemic is that one of the two places that will stay open is the pharmacy,” she said.
“There are so many people coming in for advice and support that we don’t get paid to provide. What we have been telling ministers is that we are part of the solution because we can provide access.”
According to the Department of Health and Social Care, an additional £100 million was invested in the sector by September 2022. A spokesperson said: “We are supporting pharmacies that offer a wide range of clinical services. available and we are strengthening the services that pharmacists – who are qualified health professionals – can offer their communities, including administering oral contraceptives .”