Independent pharmacies are increasingly closing their doors because of ongoing funding pressures, leaving patients unsure where to turn to, an influential committee of MPs has been told.

Vice chair of the National Pharmacy Association Jay Badenhorst told the Health and Social Care Committee earlier this week that ‘for a lot of independent businesses, there is no other way out but to sell’.

‘Many independently owned pharmacies are going up for sale because there's just no way for them to further operate,’ he said, citing challenges associated with ‘poor funding’.

Mr Badenhorst, who is also a superintendent pharmacist for Whitworth Chemists, noted that all of his group’s pharmacies were currently on the market.

He added: ‘Unfortunately, for a lot of independent businesses, there is no other way out but to sell.

‘But all of a sudden, if everyone starts selling because of the pressures, what it brings to the market is a lot of instability. And ultimately, patients then don't know where to turn to any longer.’

His comments came on Tuesday during the committee’s first evidence session for its pharmacy inquiry which is exploring the challenges faced in all pharmacy settings.

Also in attendance was Company Chemists Association (CCA) chief executive Malcolm Harrison who echoed that ‘a lot of businesses are now struggling to make any money and are having to close’.

New analysis published by the CCA yesterday also showed the rate of net closures is increasing, with an average loss of eight pharmacies per week.

Meanwhile, it was also confirmed on Thursday that all LloydsPharmacy high street and community pharmacies had been sold.

Speaking to the committee, Mr Harrison said: ‘The continual squeeze on the funding available to community pharmacies means they haven't been able to invest in the way they want to in their people, in their infrastructure, in the systems that they use and so on.’

He also noted that with the increase in prescription items from the NHS, the ‘workload pressure on pharmacists has been growing and growing and growing’.

Meanwhile, chief executive of the Association of Independent Multiple Pharmacies (AIMp) Dr Leyla Hannbeck stressed the sector was currently ‘short of £1.2bn in its core funding’.

‘Unless that shortfall is addressed, many community pharmacists are struggling to keep their heads above the water,’ she told MPs.

‘And many we're seeing in many communities [they] are shutting their doors for good.’

Dr Hannbeck cited pharmacies that were ‘heavily in debt’, with owners having to rely on using their pensions or personal funds to support the business.

As part of the evidence session, Dr Hannbeck argued action needed to be taken to change the way community pharmacy is viewed ‘at the top’ within the NHS, to ensure improvements for the sector.

In addition, the sector leaders discussed the workforce challenges posed by the Additional Roles Reimbursement Scheme (ARRS).