MPs have written letters to Health Secretary Steve Barclay to raise ‘deep and growing concern over the unprecedented pressures’ facing community pharmacies in England, and to call for ‘a fair and fit-for-purpose future funding model’.

In a move coordinated by the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC), letters have been signed by 32 MPs - nine Conservative and 23 opposition - and seven Peers, PSNC has confirmed.

The letters from Conservative MPs refer to their ‘deep and growing concern over the unprecedented pressures facing the community pharmacy sector in England, and the risks that this poses to patient care and safety, if left unchecked’.

It recognises that ‘community pharmacies have the potential to do more to support and deliver clinical services to patients, building on the ability that they demonstrated during the pandemic’, but warns that ‘many pharmacies are currently operating at a loss’.

Highlighting how ‘funding has reduced by 30% in real terms since 2015’, it acknowledges that ‘the impact of this is already causing pharmacies to cut back services and reduce their opening hours’.

All 39 MPs and Peers who have written to Mr Barclay have called for the introduction of a fairly-funded Pharmacy First service, PSNC said, as well as ‘short-term funding to stabilise the community pharmacy sector and enable pharmacies to keep their doors open’.

They have also called for ‘a commitment to working with the sector to create a fair and fit for purpose future funding model that ensures sustainability and properly funds pharmacies for what they do’, the committee said.

Among the MPs to have written to Mr Barclay is Simon Fell, MP for Barrow and Furness, who said: ‘We must not take for granted the incredible work of community pharmacy teams in our area. Without the healthcare advice and array of clinical services provided by pharmacies, our NHS would struggle to function and likely be overwhelmed.

‘I urge the Government to take immediate action to ensure that our high-street pharmacies can continue to provide the kind of high-quality service that we have all come to rely on and expect.’

One MP who wrote to the Health Secretary, Sir Peter Bottomley, MP for Worthing West, spoke of his ‘respect for the role of our community pharmacies in providing for local healthcare needs’ and said he had joined cross-party colleagues in writing to the health secretary ‘to raise growing concern about the pressures facing our community pharmacies’.

He said: ‘We fear that if these pressures are left unaddressed, we could see a large number of unplanned and permanent pharmacy closures in the near future. This would run the risk of our constituents being unable to access their prescription medications and other pharmacy services which they rely upon.

‘Those pharmacies which remain will not have sufficient resources to take on all the patients displaced by closures, which could endanger some of the most vulnerable people in society and place further pressure on the primary care network.’

Rt Hon Dame Diana Johnson, MP for Kingston upon Hull North, said ‘the unprecedented pressures facing community pharmacies’ are ‘a real issue in Hull North’, with Peter Dowd, MP for Bootle, recognising that community pharmacies ‘do a great job’ and ‘we can’t afford to lose them’.

Janet Morrison OBE, chief executive of PSNC, said: ‘We’d like to thank all MPs and Peers who have written to the health secretary. Parliamentarians are right to be worried about the health of community pharmacies which are facing significant challenges and are struggling to keep their doors open.

‘We are continuing to press for urgent action by keeping the pressure up both across Parliament and through the national media. I urge the Secretary of State to listen to the worries of his fellow MPs and to step in to save our pharmacies.’

The All-Party Parliamentary Pharmacy Group (APPG) called on the Government to take urgent action in its January The Future of Pharmacy Manifesto to relieve the funding pressures on the community pharmacy sector in the short-term and review the long-term funding model for pharmacy.

The pharmacy sector is also launching a Save Our Pharmacies campaign, with a wave of coordinated activities taking place throughout March.

The MPs’ letters follow the announcement of the closure, consolidation, or even eventual sale of 237 Lloyd pharmacy branches based in Sainsbury’s. This is in addition to recent pharmacy closures announced by Boots, Tesco and Asda.