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England reports significant fall in rural pharmacy applications

Fewer than one in three rural applications sucessful

November 19th 2015

Tagged: NHS statistical reports England Wales

By Ailsa Colquhoun

Applications to open pharmacies in England’s rural areas fell by over 44 per cent during 2014-15 – and fewer than one in three was successful, NHS England data on the community pharmacy network has shown.

The report, General Pharmaceutical Services. England 2005/06 to 2014/15, shows that in 2014-15 in England, there were 21 applications for new and additional pharmacies in rural (controlled) locations of which six were successful (28.5%).

The 2014-15 figures (note: Appendix 1; tables 5b-d) represent a significant fall on 2013-14, when 38 rural (controlled area) pharmacy applications were received, of which just over 60% (23) were successful. By comparison, in 2011-12, the last full year before the introduction in England of control of entry regulations based on Pharmaceutical Needs Assessments (PNA), 70% (107) of 153 applications made to controlled areas were successful.

Between 2012-15, an average of 31 pharmacy applications per year were seen in controlled areas achieving an average success rate of 58%.

Overall, the data reports that there were 11,674 community pharmacies in England as at 31 March 2015, representing a marginal increase of 0.2% (27 pharmacies) compared to 2014. Since introducing PNA based regulations in September 2012, the average growth rate in the pharmacy network has declined – from an average network increase rate of +2.5% during 2010-12 to +0.77% in 2013-15.  The introduction of PNA-based control of entry is currently being discussed in the Welsh Assembly.

The data for 2014-15 also shows that pharmacies are getting bigger: 18% of pharmacies dispensed over £10,000 items in 2014-15, which is double the proportion in this dispensing volume band in 2006-07. Some of this rise will be due to the 42% increase in dispensing volumes since 2006-07.

The biggest pharmacies are also gaining market share. The 10K+ item businesses took 35% of all items dispensed in England in 2014-15, compared to 21% of all items in 2006-07. Again, overall dispensing volume growth will contribute to this figure.  In total England’s pharmacies dispensed 978.3 million items in 2014-15, an increase of 30.1m (3.2 per cent) from 2013/14. Some 85m items were dispensed by dispensing practices in England. Some 14.7 per cent of items dispensed by community pharmacies and appliance contractors were via the Electronic Prescription Service.

At 31 March 2015, 38.3 per cent (4,471) of the pharmacies were classified as independent. Since 2008/09 the number (proportion) of pharmacies in England in independent ownership has been stable at this figure.