Your report (Nearly 1,000 pharmacies in England closed since 2017, with poorer areas more affected, 29 March) shines a welcome spotlight on the beleaguered independent pharmacy sector. My family’s pharmacy, in our hands for almost 40 years, has never before faced pressure like now. Consistent real-terms cuts in remuneration, and government inaction when price rises have left us choosing between accepting a hefty financial loss or refusing to fulfil a prescription for a sick child, have left the sector drained and debilitated.

A pandemic that cemented pharmacies as the easy-to-access first port of call for patients should have marked a new start. Instead we are grappling for our future. The Pharmacy First initiative – letting patients with seven common conditions see a pharmacist instead of a GP – is a start, but it’s no panacea: anecdotal evidence suggests that as few as one in 10 consultations will be “successful”, as measured by the NHS criteria on which payment depends; that means pharmacists will spend a huge amount of time on this work without a penny in return.
Hasan Ahmed

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