Almost 150 chemists in the UK have been reprimanded for providing sub-standard care over the past year, MailOnline can reveal.
Nine were subject to enforcement action for breaching strict regulatory guidelines.
One – Allcures Pharmacy in South Ockendon, Essex – performed inadequate safety checks before doling out ‘high risk’ drugs, leaving patients ‘liable to abuse, misuse and overuse’.
Another, Burwash Pharmacy in Hove, Sussex, posed a ‘serious risk to patient safety’ because of its ‘inadequate’ risk management and safeguarding around prescribing medicines online, including for weight loss.
MailOnline has flagged all 143 of the offending chemists on an interactive map.
All 750-plus pharmacies that have been reviewed are also listed in a table below, allowing you to see exactly how they are judged by the regulator.
Our analysis comes on the back of a major push to ease pressure on GPs by encouraging Brits to go straight to their pharmacist instead.
Under blockbuster NHS plans designed to free up millions of doctors’ appointments, chemists have been given new powers to hand out prescriptions for seven common ailments.
It means patients battling minor illnesses, such as a sore throat or earache, can now bypass their GP.
The Prime Minister, whose mother ran his local pharmacy in Southampton, labelled the scheme a ‘mini revolution in high street healthcare’.
The General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) carries out regular inspections of all 11,000-plus pharmacies in the country.
It rates them with one overall outcome — either ‘standards met’ or ‘standards not all met’ — based on five categories.
These are governance, staffing, premises, services and equipment.
All of the standards will need to be met for a pharmacy to receive a standards met outcome.
When guidelines are breached, pharmacies are given an action plan ordering them to improve.
Further enforcement action can then be made on chemists who fail to overhaul their services after six months.
This can include imposing conditions on premises dishing out drugs.
In extreme circumstances, pharmacies can be forced to stop selling prescription-only drugs.
All 143 pharmacies judged to have not met the standards are marked orange on our map, which can be zoomed in and out.
Nine of the total — marked red — were subject to enforcement action by the GPhC.
All inspection reports included in MailOnline’s analysis were published between February 1, 2023 and February 1, 2024.
Some of the inspections themselves would have happened before February 2023 because of the length of time it can take between inspection and publication of the report.
This means that some of the reports from pharmacies included on the list who have had a ‘not all standards met’ may not be their most recent inspection from the GPhC.
They may have since overhauled their services to the satisfaction of the GPhC.
Gareth Jones, director of corporate affairs at the National Pharmacy Association told MailOnline: ‘The vast majority of pharmacies meet the GPhC’s exacting standards.
‘Of those deemed not to be fully compliant, most issues are administrative and do not affect patients.
‘The overwhelming majority of issues are rectified quickly and the need for any enforcement is very rare.
‘Of course, patient safety is everyone’s top priority so we work with our members every day to ensure they are safe and reliable at all times and meet the extremely high standards rightly set by the regulators.’
Burwash Pharmacy (pictured) in Hove, Sussex, posed a ‘serious risk to patient safety’ because of its ‘inadequate’ risk management and safeguarding around prescribing medicines online, including for weight loss
Online pharmacy Allcures Pharmacy (pictured) in South Ockendon, Essex – performed inadequate safety checks before doling out ‘high risk’ drugs, leaving patients ‘liable to abuse, misuse and overuse’
Under NHS plans to free up millions of appointments with family doctors, chemists can dish out contraceptive pills to women. High street pharmacists also now have powers to hand out prescriptions for common ailments, meaning patients battling minor illnesses can bypass their GP. Under wider plans, pharmacists will be offering more blood pressure checks to at-risk patients, with a commitment to deliver 2.5million a year by spring 2025
Daisy Cooper, Liberal Democrat’s health spokeswoman, told MailOnline: ‘It is worrying to see a small number of pharmacies failing to meet basic standards, giving a bad name to the vast majority of them that do a brilliant job offering walk-in healthcare on our high streets.
‘The government needs to do more to ensure standards are upheld, as well as preventing the pharmacy closures that are leaving some communities without the easy access to medication and health advice they need.’
Of the 143 reprimanded sites whose reports were published, 118 were bricks and mortar chemists, while 25 were internet or distance selling pharmacies.
Online pharmacies make up just over three per cent of the UK’s chemists but accounted for 17 per cent of those who failed to meet the regulator’s standards.
The GPhC has long been concerned with the lack of ‘appropriate checks in place’ and ‘failures’, such as overprescribing, linked with internet-based pharmacies.
Last month, it revealed there were 263 open Fitness to Practice probes involving online pharmacies, representing over 18 per cent of its open caseload.
Since 2019, a total of 1,985 concerns relating to online pharmacies have been elevated to Fitness to Practise cases, it added.
The GPhC receives just under 3,000 concerns per year, on average, meaning online pharmacies have accounted for roughly 13 per cent of all complaints logged over the last five years.
A spokesperson for the GPhC told MailOnline: ‘We set standards for registered pharmacies in Great Britain and by inspecting pharmacies we assess if they are meeting these standards.
‘The vast majority of pharmacies do meet all the standards when inspected.
‘A pharmacy not meeting all of the standards will usually have to complete an improvement action plan and are then re-inspected.
‘We can use our statutory enforcement powers if the necessary changes are not made, or in situations where there is a serious risk to patient safety.’
Between February 1, 2023 and February 2024, the GPhC carried out 120 routine inspections of community and online pharmacies, it added.
Of these, seven are no longer on the register and 11 have been subject to enforcement action.
It comes as nine in ten chemists in England have signed up to the Pharmacy First scheme and have fresh powers to treat patients.
It will be offered by both high street and online pharmacies, who will undertake the service via a video appointment and deliver the prescription in the post.
Since December, pharmacists have also gained powers to dish out contraceptive pills to women.
A wider range of trained pharmacy staff can also provide the Blood Pressure Check service.
These extra responsibilities are designed to ease pressures on GPs.
However, in parts of the country, chemists are already rammed as hundreds have been forced to close. Pharmacy bodies blame NHS underfunding, staff shortages and a crumbling GP service.
Just 11,414 community pharmacies offering key NHS services remain — the lowest level since records began in 2015/16. Almost 400 shut their doors in 2022/23 alone, statistics show.
Real-time NHS England data shows the count as of December 31, 2023 may be as little as 10,273.
Industry leaders have labelled the figures ‘alarming’ and warned patients will be forced into making longer journeys for vital treatment or ‘miss out all together’.
Meanwhile, GP numbers have plummeted in recent years. There were 27,487 GPs in December, down 6.3 per cent (from 29,320) in 2016. This is despite the population growing by around 2million over the same period.
This has led to an appointment crisis in general practice, with patients being forced to endure the 8am scramble — with only four in 10 securing same day appointments and three in 10 forced to wait more than a week, according to latest data.
Others must complete an online e-consult to even reach their practice in the first place.
It has forced the Government to hunt for solutions — such as introducing new phone lines to make it easier to contact surgeries and the Pharmacy First scheme, in a bid to ease demand on GPs.
Members of the Pharmacists’ Defence Association, which represents thousands of pharmacists in the UK, also revealed they are worried that ‘the hurried launch’ of the scheme will result in a spike in violence and abuse from the public, whose expectations will have been raised.
NHS England only made the software required to operate available to pharmacies on on Wednesday, the day it launched, the union said.