Concerns over city pharmacy closures

The trend of pharmacy closures across Liverpool is “concerning” but has not yet reached a tipping point.

Since the publication of the city’s pharmaceutical needs assessment (PNA) in 2022, almost a dozen branches in our communities have shut their doors as commercial providers consolidate their offering or close down entirely.

Senior leaders have expressed their concern at the number of pharmacies closing down as the new PNA is being drawn up.

Among those expressing hope for a new approach was deputy Lord Mayor Cllr Richard Kemp, who said more could be done at high street venues.

The city’s health and wellbeing board was told that since the PNA was drawn up two years ago, 11 pharmacies have closed or consolidated. The current document, which is used by NHS England and NHS Improvement in their decision-making process on market entry and pharmacy consolidations, expires next year.

A report, debated by panel members, said at current figures the city has 105 provisions. Last year, there was shock and anger at Boots confirmed it would close its Castle Street branch (pictured) as part of a consolidation process.

However, campaigners rejoiced in 2023 as they were able to prevent the shutting of the Rowlands Pharmacy on Lodge Lane. The document said, “Liverpool still has good pharmacy coverage across the city at an estimated average 15 minute walk time, although signs of potential gaps are developing in areas where pharmacies have closed.”

Richard Jones, Liverpool Council head of corporate intelligence, said, “We haven’t reached a tipping point of not being able to access services but we will monitor closely.”

Analysis by the city council found the two neighbourhoods that have experienced the greatest recent impact on pharmacy closures include the City Centre and Fiveways – comprising the electoral wards of Calderstones, Childwall, Church, Wavertree Garden Suburb, and Wavertree Village – with a reduction of three and two respectively. It said Fiveways neighbourhood now has the highest head of population per pharmacy in its neighbourhood at 7,228.

The report added, “These closures have a negative impact on affected communities, can inconvenience residents in accessing essential and enhanced services, and can be an economic blight if the premises remain unoccupied.”

Professor Matt Ashton, director of public health, said, “The views of the community are vital. We can’t say no to a closure, it’s a commercial decision.

“If we’re asked about a consolidation, we can respond. It’s aspirational to say we want to have loads of them everywhere.”

Chair Cllr Jane Corbett said she was “against consolidation,” adding, “We need them, we want to keep as many of them open as possible.” Cllr Kemp said: “I’m a great believer that we could do more with pharmacies. It’s a pity they’re closing them.”

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