Skip to main content Skip to footer

General Pharmaceutical Services in England 2015/16 - 2020/21

Published 28 October 2021.


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

General Pharmaceutical Services underwent an additional assessment by OSR following its migration to the NHSBSA. They have identified four requirements for NHSBSA to address to ensure the high standards associated with National Statistics designation are met. NHSBSA have produced an action plan to outline how they propose to achieve these requirements.

We want to create trust in what we release through a commitment to transparency. What we produce will be truthful, impartial, and independent. It will meet consistent standards of behaviour that reflect the wider public good.

Key Findings

  • There were 11,600 active community pharmacies and 112 active appliance contractors in England during 2020/21. 236 new pharmacies opened during 2020/21, while 451 closed. This is the lowest number of active contractors since 2015/16.
  • 1.03 billion prescription items were dispensed by community pharmacies and appliance contractors in England in 2020/21. This is a 1.79% decrease from the number of items dispensed in 2019/20 but still a 2.35% increase in items dispensed since 2015/16.
  • 964 million prescription items were dispensed via the Electronic Prescription Service (EPS) in 2020/21, 93.9% of all items dispensed in the year by community pharmacies and appliance contractors. This is an increase of 58.6 percentage points from 2015/16.
  • The cost of drugs and appliances reimbursed to community pharmacies and appliance contractors totalled £8.97 billion in 2020/21. This was an increase of 3.72% from £8.65 billion in 2019/20 and a six year high despite the reduction in dispensed items in 2020/21.
  • 2.77 million seasonal influenza vaccines were administered by community pharmacies in 2020/21. This was a 60.9% increase from the 1.72 million vaccines administered in 2019/2020 and a 365% increase on the 595 thousand vaccines administered in 2015/16.

Resource List

General Pharmaceutical Services England 2015/16 to 2020/21 - Statistical Summary Narrative (HTML)

Impacts of errors identified on the accuracy of the General Pharmaceutical Services – England National Statistics (HTML)

Supporting summary tables (Excel: 94KB)

Background information and methodology note (PDF: 317KB)

User engagement strategy (PDF: 191KB)

Pre-release access list (PDF: 119KB)


We're collecting feedback about our publications. You can complete a short survey to help us make our statistical releases more useful and accessible. 

The survey takes about 5 minutes to complete. All responses will remain anonymous and you will not be identifiable in any report we produce. You can view our privacy policy to see how your data is used and stored. 

Contact us

If you have any questions, comments, or would like more information you can email

Responsible statistician: Kirsty Gray