Over 40% of all permanent pharmacy closures in England took place in the 20% most deprived areas nationally, with 63% of those occurring in the Northwest, West Midlands and Yorkshire and the Humber, according to new analysis by the Company Chemist’s Association (CCA).

The CCA analysed NHS data of pharmacy closures and found 670 community pharmacies had been lost between 2015 and 2022 in England, with 808 closing permanently and only 138 opening.

While 41% permanent closures took place in the top 20% most deprived areas in England, only 9% of net permanent closures took place in the top 20% least deprived areas.

Commenting on the data, the CCA raised concerns that reduced accessibility to pharmacies could ‘impede’ the Government’s levelling up policy, the NHS’ efforts to reduce health inequalities, and healthcare accessibility in deprived areas.

It noted that the analysis found that of all the Covid-19 vaccines delivered by community pharmacy between January and November 2021, over a third were delivered in the 20% most deprived areas.

The CCA also cited a 2014 study that found that more than 99% of people in the most deprived communities live within a 20-minute walk of a community pharmacy, compared to 90% in the areas of lowest deprivation - coining the phrase ‘the positive pharmacy care law’.

Malcolm Harrison, chief executive of the CCA said that that disproportionate and ‘concerning’  rate of closures in areas of deprivation ‘will only worsen the health of deprived communities’.

He continued: ‘The CCA is concerned that individuals may not be able to visit pharmacies at all to either get the medicines and advice they need or to be referred into other parts of the system.

‘The current funding model for community pharmacy is broken. The pharmacy network is no longer economically viable. The Government must face the facts and stop pharmacy closures by providing a sustainable level of funding.

‘Without action, the country is sleepwalking towards an ever-worsening crisis in primary care – which threatens the entire ‘levelling up’ agenda for people in the most deprived communities.’

Last month, an independent report warned that the flat funding deal for community pharmacy represents a 25% funding cut for the sector, calling it an ‘existential threat’ that could impact patient care and lead to more closures.