'More pharmacies will close down in the next few months’, Alastair Buxton, director of NHS services at the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) has warned.

Speaking at the Westminster Health Forum on 16 January, he said that ‘we’re all trying to present a positive view of the future this morning in our presentations but there’s a fundamental challenge for pharmacists’.

Mr Buxton continued: 'Over the next few months I’m sure we’re going to see more pharmacies closing down. I think the end of this month is going to be a tension point for the independent pharmacies when often if you’re a single individual owner you’ve probably got a HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) bill to pay and that maybe something that pushes you over the edge.'

He said: ‘We’ve seen even large chains, such as Lloyds Pharmacy, decide to close or dispose of 190 pharmacies because they can’t make them work financially.

‘We want to move to a funding system where at least we get the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC), that could get the Treasury to understand the value of what pharmacy is delivering.’

In 2015, a PricewaterhouseCoopers analysis, commissioned by the PSNC, showed that pharmacies contributed to a value of £3bn in England, including £1.1bn in cash savings for the NHS.

James Roach, NHS transformation lead at the National Pharmacy Association (NPA), argued that the NHS ‘saves money badly and doesn’t necessarily focus where it can maximise its existing spend ’

Precious workforce

As the third largest NHS workforce, pharmacists are highly skilled professionals who can support other services across the health service and take pressure off healthcare professionals, such as GPs.

Sandra Gidley, chair of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) said that ‘we can’t afford to lose the skills and expertise’ of pharmacists.

She said: ‘Given the immense pressure in the NHS, and the level of concerns about services among healthcare leaders, it’s now more important than ever to make the most of the pharmacy profession in all settings to improve and support patient care.

‘It’s time to stop diminishing community pharmacists, to invest in pharmacy services with proven track record and for the NHS to truly start supporting the pharmacy profession.’