In a parliamentary session, Peter Aldous, MP for Waveney, raised concerns about the closure of community pharmacies and the potential consequences for residents. According to NHS data, 222 pharmacies in England closed during the first half of 2023, including six in Suffolk. Mr. Aldous emphasized the significance of these pharmacies, referring to them as “silent partners” within the health and care system that may have been taken for granted. He expressed concern about the reduction in pharmacies on high streets, warning of the possibility of “pharmacy wastelands” similar to dental deserts.
Community pharmacies have played a vital role during the pandemic, providing services such as vaccinations and flu jabs. The closure of community pharmacies has also impacted Suffolk, with LloydsPharmacy closing outlets in several areas and Boots stores in Felixstowe and Woodbridge facing potential closure. Last year, Community Pharmacy England requested additional government funding to support the sector.
A spokesperson for Community Pharmacy Suffolk highlighted the jeopardy faced by pharmacies in maintaining their viability. Financial pressures, medicine supply issues, workforce shortages, and regulatory reforms are urgently needed to ensure support for these hardworking teams. The spokesperson stressed the importance of community pharmacies in delivering healthcare services and mentioned that 65 pharmacies in Suffolk and North East Essex are signed up to administer the Covid-19 vaccination program this autumn.
Mr. Aldous expressed his concern after visiting pharmacies in Suffolk, noting the pressures they face, including financial strain, recruitment challenges, and regulatory issues. He emphasized the need to address these issues to prevent a further loss of pharmacies. However, Suffolk will receive support from the new Pharmacy First scheme, which allocates £645 million to support community pharmacies.
In conclusion, the closure of community pharmacies poses a significant risk to communities, potentially creating gaps in healthcare provision. Urgent action is required to address the financial, workforce, and regulatory challenges faced by these essential healthcare providers.