THOUSANDS of independently owned pharmacies could be forced to close down, a damning report has found.
It predicts 72% of the family businesses will be losing money within four years if things go on as they are.
The report says more funds are needed from NHS England to avert the crisis.
MP Jackie Doyle-Price said: “The pandemic has highlighted what a pivotal role pharmacies play in delivering frontline care when many doctors’ surgeries were closed.”
Ms Doyle-Price, who chairs the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Pharmacy, added:“Pharmacies must be given the funding they need to look after the nation’s health.”
The study by accountants Ernst & Young found community pharmacies are underfunded by £497million a year.
Pharmacies receive about £2.6billion from the NHS England budget – but that figure has been slashed by £200m since 2016.
NHS funding makes up around 87% of revenue received by pharmacy services in the UK.
The report focused on the 6,500 independently owned community pharmacies in England – half the overall total.
Andrew Lane, who chairs the National Pharmacy Association, said: “Community pharmacies act as a vital lifeline in communities across the land – and there’s a very real threat they could close unless ministers act now.”
Around 28% of independent pharmacies were already making a loss in 2019, with late-opening chemists most likely to be in deficit, according to the study.