Pharmacy closures have left increasing numbers of people trying to access a diminishing pool of pharmacies, leading to ‘pharmacy deserts’ in urban areas, new analysis has warned.

According to Gophr, the delivery partner for online pharmacies such as Numark, areas of the West Midlands, North West England, South East England and London are at risk of becoming ‘pharmacy deserts’.

Gophr’s analysis, based on statistics shared by the Company Chemists’ Association and Statistica, found that there were as many as 5,882 potential patients per pharmacy in the South East; 5,195 in London; 4,619 in the West Midlands and 4,227 in the North West.

The analysis also suggests that if all prescriptions were dispensed within a 40-hour working week, pharmacists would be dispensing a prescription every 2 minutes and 6 seconds – faster than it takes a McDonald’s worker to serve a quarter pounder burger.

The figures lay bare the scale of the issue within the sector, said Graham Smith, strategic account director at Gophr.

‘We know from our experience in the sector that changing working hours and pharmacy closures are causing considerable strain – both on pharmacists and patients. But it was only after digging into the numbers, and speaking to our clients, that the true challenge became clear,’ he said.

And with more closures planned over the next year than in the past three years combined, including 436 planned closures from Boots and Lloyds restructuring, Gophr said that ‘this could just be the beginning of pharmacy struggles’.

‘The fact that pharmacists are serving more customers at a speed that is not sustainable is concerning,’ said Mr Smith, who added that the sector needed to ‘think differently’ about how to serve patients.

And Kurtis Dodge, senior commercial and digital proposition manager at Numark suggested that delivery services could help pharmacies serve customers within ‘pharmacy deserts’.

‘It has the potential to relieve some of the pressures from pharmacists with structured delivery routines for regular repeat prescription patients,’ he said.