EXCLUSIVE The Pharmacist mapped pharmacy closures across England over the last five years, and found there was a net loss of over 1,200 bricks and mortar pharmacies since 2019, with closures disproportionately affecting more deprived areas.

We put our findings to the main political parties, and asked them what they planned to do about it.

Decline in pharmacies ‘shocking’, says shadow pharmacy minister

Preet Kaur Gill, the shadow minister for primary care and public health, said in response to our figures: ‘It is shocking that there are more than 1,200 fewer community pharmacies under the Tories than there were five years ago.

‘Our community pharmacies and pharmacy staff are desperate for a change, and only Labour has a plan to deliver it,’ she added.

And she pledged to ‘reform the NHS, so everyone has access to healthcare when they need it’ – including by further expanding the role of community pharmacy as part of Labour’s Neighbourhood Health Service plans, and ‘cutting unnecessary red tape to ensure pharmacists can work to the top of their license and focus on their expertise in prescribing and medicines management’.

Conservatives: 'Clear plan' to expand pharmacy services and enable pharmacists

The Conservative party did not respond to our requests for comment on our figures demonstrating pharmacy closures.

But in its manifesto released this week, it pledged increased funding for Pharmacy First until 2030, and repeated commitments to expand Pharmacy First to include more conditions such as acne and chest infections, as well as have pharmacies provide more contraceptive options and menopause support.

Health secretary Victoria Atkins said when the party's initial health plans were launched last week that because of the ‘bold action’ taken by the Conservative government, pharmacies, GPs and community diagnostic centres – which she described as ‘the backbone of our NHS’ – were ‘more accessible in more places for more people’.

She added: ‘I know just how important it is for people to have access to health services and treatment close to home - and Pharmacy First and our hundreds of new Community Diagnostic Centres have been a real success story so far. But we must do more.

‘Our clear plan will continue to enable our brilliant pharmacists, GPs and CDCs to do what they do best: serving their local community and boosting capacity in our NHS. We will make the NHS faster, simpler and fairer for all.’

Lib Dems: ‘We’ll work towards fairer and more sustainable long-term funding’

Responding to our findings, a spokesperson for the Liberal Democrats told The Pharmacist: ‘With one hand the Conservatives are asking pharmacists to do more but with the other, they’ve cut millions of pounds of funding and overseen the closure of hundreds of pharmacies’.

And they added: ‘It is time to recognise that it is far cheaper to prevent ill health than to treat it. Pharmacists can play a major role in reducing the pressure on GPs and tackling ill health in our communities, but they need support.

‘The Liberal Democrats are putting fixing the NHS and care at the heart of our campaign. We will reverse years of cuts to public health funding for local communities, give people a legal right to see a GP within a week and work towards a fairer and more sustainable long-term funding model for pharmacies.’

Mapped: community pharmacy closures since 2019

Our analysis of community pharmacies registered with the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) suggests a net loss of over 1,200 pharmacies over the last five years.

While this data includes pharmacies providing both private and NHS pharmaceutical services, analysis of the NHS England Pharmaceutical List indicates that 90% of those pharmacies lost were providing NHS community pharmacy services.

Explore our map below, and read more about how closures are disproportionately affecting deprived areas.