Pharmacies no longer have the capacity to match demand, and cannot sustain current service levels without extra funding, the National Pharmacy Association (NPA) has warned.

In a statement released today, NPA chair Andrew Lane called for ‘urgent intervention’ from the Government and the NHS in England, with pharmacies already having to reduce services because chronic underfunding has made current service levels unsustainable.

This comes after the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) announced that it was discussing a series of measures  - including a relaxation of opening hours requirements - with the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) to try to help support capacity pressures.

Commenting on the proposed measure, Mr Lane said: ‘For years now, community pharmacies have been asked to do more and more for less and less. Our capacity no longer matches the demands made of the sector, and changes to opening hours are one inevitable consequence.’

Pharmacies are already having to reduce access to services to ‘make ends meet’ as they face ‘staff shortages, medicine shortages and immense financial pressures’, but this could be ‘just warning tremors of much worse to come’ without extra funding and support, he added.

Last month, contractors told The Pharmacist that rising drug prices were now affecting ‘bread and butter lines’ of drugs, ‘where we dispense hundreds if not thousands of packs each month’, and called on PSNC to take a tougher stance with DHSC on price concessions.

And although Mr Lane said contractors have ‘worked really hard to insulate patients’ from these issues, there comes a point’ where they must say ‘enough is enough’.

He continued: ‘It stands to reason that if the current financial envelope is too small to sustain current service levels, it cannot support new NHS developments like the much-trailed ‘Pharmacy First’ scheme for common ailments. Let’s call time on the more for less funding formula which has blighted the sector for far too long.’

Last month, in an interview with The Pharmacist, PSNC CEO Janet Morrison said ministers are ‘sold’ on the idea of a Pharmacy First scheme in England, but PSNC will not agree to a plan without a dedicated funding package.

However, she also said she was ‘not too optimistic’ that community pharmacy would see any of the £3.3bn for the NHS per year for the next two years announced in the autumn statement, but instead thought that it would be absorbed by NHS pay rises.

The NPA is encouraging its members to take part in the forthcoming PSNC webinars, where PSNC will talk to contractors about the steps they might be be willing to take in future to cut costs should emergency financial relief fail to materialise.