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Number of pharmacies in Wales at ‘lowest number in memory’


Number of pharmacies in Wales at ‘lowest number in memory’

Community Pharmacy Wales has warned the number of pharmacies in the country this month fell to its “lowest number in memory” as funding pressures take their toll on the pharmacy network.

Outlining the impact of inadequate funding on pharmacies, the Welsh negotiating body said there had been 27 pharmacy closures since July 2020 and as of April 2024, Wales had 686 pharmacies.

“On average, over 90 per cent of income for a community pharmacy is from the NHS. Due to the current frailty in funding and unprecedented challenges, a small reduction in business could cause many more pharmacies to become non-viable and close," CPW said in a statement on the sustainability of community pharmacy in Wales.

“This will reduce access to local NHS clinical services for patients, result in the loss of quality jobs, reduced employment and negatively affect both communities and high streets, particularly in rural areas.”

CPW said pharmacies were having to deal with “sizeable inflationary cost pressures from increasing staff wages, rising energy bills and other outlays such as property rates.”

It warned funding for 2023-24 and the Welsh government’s “flat funding offer for 2024-25” would not be enough “to help off-set inflationary costs,” with contractors reducing their opening hours and charging patients for non-NHS funded services such as home delivery “to try and remain viable.”

Between January and October 2023, 15 per cent of pharmacies in Wales reduced their opening hours. A survey by CPW in August last year found 22 per cent had reduced their opening hours and 49 per cent reduced their staffing hours.

Ninety-two per cent said they were spending more time sourcing medicines because of supply problems while contractors were spending one to two hours a day on average chasing stock.

Pharmacies, CPW said, were struggling to source medicines and having to buy drugs “at a much higher cost than the Drug Tariff reimbursement price a loss to the pharmacy that they are unable to reclaim.”

“Trying to source drugs in short supply causes a substantial increase in workload at a time when there is a serious workforce shortage,” CPW said.

It warned pharmacies were struggling to access NHS premises improvement grants to address “inadequate pharmacy premises and consultation rooms” and that was “limiting the ability of contractors to continue to increase service provision.”

Urging the Welsh government to support pharmacies to improve their premises, CPW said: “Patients accessing clinical services through community pharmacy should expect to be treated in the same standard of clinical environment as they would elsewhere in the NHS.”

CPW called for a “wholesale review” of community pharmacy funding and a review of contractor income negotiations, a third of which is decided by talks in England without any input from the Wales-based community pharmacy network.

CPW also called for pharmacists in Wales to be allowed to use their own professional judgement to “support medication supply issues” and "parity” for community pharmacies and GP surgeries when it comes to accessing the premises improvement grant.

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