More than 100 community pharmacies have closed over the past year in England, according to data from NHS Digital.
The data, released today (7 November), showed that 103 community pharmacies in England closed during the 2018/19 financial year, while only 38 opened during the same period. This represents a net closure of 65 pharmacies.
There were 11,539 community pharmacies in England as of 31 March 2019, which represents an increase of 9.8% over the last decade, NHS Digital said.
However, it added that the number of pharmacies has decreased by 0.7% since 2017/18.
Almost 4 in 10 (39%) community pharmacies in England are owned by independent contractors at 4,525, while 7,014 are owned by multiple contractors with six pharmacies or more, the data showed.
North of England hit hardest
Almost half of the pharmacy closures (48) last financial year took place in the North of England, with the Yorkshire and Humber region alone losing 15 pharmacies.
Only 12 pharmacies opened in the North of England last year, leading to a net loss of 36 pharmacies.
London was the only region to retain the same number of pharmacies, with 7 closing and 7 opening over the year.
The Midlands and East saw a net loss of 20 community pharmacies, compared with 9 in the South.
The data also shows that over the last financial year, there were 28 pharmacy consolidations, with more than a third of these (36%) taking place in the North of England. All of the mergers involved an existing pharmacy premises, rather than a new building.
In the new community pharmacy contract announced in July, the Government committed to making it easier for contractors to merge with other pharmacies.
This is because the funding ‘is still supporting more pharmacies in some places than may be necessary’, according to the contract document.
Last month, Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) chief Simon Dukes said the NHS is ‘still obsessed with clustering’ – the belief that there are too many pharmacies near to each other.
Meanwhile, pharmacy real estate experts Christie & Co told The Pharmacist in September that mergers could strengthen market interest in the sector.
Considering a merger? Read pharmacy lawyer Noel Wardle’s latest blog on what to think about before you take the plunge