The value of pharmacy

Published on: 10th February 2022 | Updated on: 22nd June 2022

Community pharmacies are well used and trusted by their local communities. They provide a range of healthcare services including helping people to get the most benefit from their medicines and to lead healthier lives. Introducing further clinical services that support the medicines supply function of these pharmacies could offer more convenient care for patients and better value for the NHS. This makes the network of pharmacies a valuable asset for the provision of healthcare.

Accessibility

They are situated in high street locations, in neighbourhood centres, in supermarkets and in the heart of the most deprived communities. Many are open long hours when other health care professionals are unavailable. There are several different types and sizes of community pharmacies, ranging from the large chains with shops on every high street or in edge of town supermarkets, to small individually owned pharmacies in small communities, in the suburbs and often in deprived areas or rural settings. The latest information shows that:

  • Approximately 90% of people in England are just 20 minutes’ walk away from their nearest pharmacy;
  • More than 99% of those in areas of the highest deprivation are within a 20-minute walk of a community pharmacy (according to a BMJ Open article); and
  • As the accessibility of community pharmacies is greatest in areas of higher deprivation, they may have an important role to play in reducing inequalities.

Community pharmacy is consequently a socially inclusive healthcare service providing a convenient and less formal environment for those who cannot easily access or do not choose to access other kinds of health service.

Pharmacy saves the NHS 24 million GP appointments per year

Community pharmacies across England deliver 58 million informal, appointment-free consultations per year, saving the NHS 24 million GP appointments. In addition to dispensing more than a billion medicines to keep local communities healthy and out of hospital in the past year, pharmacies are facing significant demand for free healthcare advice.

Data on pharmacy consultations collected during the second peak of the COVID-19 pandemic in the UK shows pharmacies provide healthcare advice to 1.1 million people every week, with around a quarter of consultations including questions about COVID-19. The following animation describes this in more detail.

Further findings from the PSNC Pharmacy Advice Audit 2021 include:

  • More than 58 million informal healthcare consultations are provided by pharmacists and their teams every year.
  • Every year 44 million patients self-refer to a pharmacy for health advice with 5 million unable to access other healthcare.
  • Comparison with 2020 audit data shows growing patient reliance on advice and care from community pharmacies.
  • Pharmacies have remained open during the pandemic with 1 in 4 consultations involving advice relating to COVID-19.

Pharmacies contributed a net value of £3 billion to society in 2015

Community pharmacies contributed a net value of £3 billion to the NHS, public sector, patients and wider society in England in 2015 through just 12 services, with a further £1.9 billion expected to accrue over the next 20 years. This means that community pharmacies deliver substantially more in benefits than they receive in compensation, providing excellent value to the Department of Health and Social Care.

PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP (PwC) quantified the economic contribution of community pharmacy in England in 2015 and discovered that the network provided a benefit of more than £250,000 per pharmacy or £54.61 for every resident of England.

Community pharmacy: providing great value for communities and references
An infographic showing the key findings from the PwC report.

The value of community pharmacy – summary report
A summarised version of a PSNC commissioned PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP (PwC) report to examine and quantify the economic contribution of community pharmacy in England in 2015.

Statistics

Think Pharmacy: Making greater use of community pharmacy

Whilst PSNC is working to progress the clinical development of community pharmacy at a national level, local healthcare commissioners often recognise the value of pharmacy in supporting local healthcare priorities. The prospectuses below (first created in 2019) outline the value that commissioning these services from local pharmacies could bring.

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PSNC negotiates with the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) and NHS England and NHS Improvement (NHSE&I) on behalf of all NHS community pharmacies in England. Learn more about PSNC.