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General Pharmaceutical Services in England 2015/16 - 2019/20

Published 19 November 2020.


Community pharmacies and appliance contractors are responsible for dispensing medications, appliances, and medical devices to NHS patients. They are not a direct part of the NHS but provide essential services on behalf of the NHS to the general public.

This publication aims to describe the essential and advanced services that community pharmacies and appliance contractors provide, along with some of their associated costs.

The General Pharmaceutical Services (GPhS) publication is a National Statistic release. National Statistics Status means that GPhS meets the highest standards of trustworthiness, quality, public value, and complies with all aspects of the Code of Practice for Statistics.

The designation of this release as a National Statistic was confirmed in January 2012 following an assessment by the Office for Statistics Regulation (OSR). This release is currently subject to a further assessment by OSR which will begin in Spring 2021.

The release of this publication is the first in a series by us following a public consultation by NHS Digital.

Key findings

  • There were 11,800 active community pharmacies and 112 active appliance contractors during 2019/20. 239 new pharmacies opened during 2019/20, while 405 closed. This is the lowest number of active contractors since 2015/16.

  • 1,046 million prescription items were dispensed by community pharmacies and appliance contractors in 2019/20. This is the highest level of dispensing in the previous 5 years, an 4.22% increase in items dispensed since 2015/16.

  • 808 million prescription items were dispensed via the Electronic Prescription Service (EPS) in 2019/20, 77.3% of all items dispensed in the year by community pharmacies and appliance contractors. This is an increase of 41.9 percentage points from 2015/16.

  • The cost of drugs and appliances reimbursed to community pharmacies and appliance contractors totalled £8,649 million in 2019/20. This was an increase of 5.10% from £8,229 million in 2018/19 following four consecutive years of decreases from the five year high of £8,664 million in 2015/16.

  • 1.72 million seasonal influenza vaccines were administered by community pharmacies in 2019/20. This was 2.89 times more than the 595 thousand vaccines in 2015/16.

Resource list

General Pharmaceutical Services - Statistical summary narrative (HTML)

Supporting summary tables (Excel: 134KB)Background information and methodology note (PDF: 260KB)User engagement strategy (PDF: 189KB)Pre-release access list (PDF: 124KB)


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Responsible statistician: Matthew Wilson.