This week, Charac, an NHS-integrated pharmacy app designed to lessen independent community pharmacies’ operational burdens, has raised £1.2 million in debt and equity financing.
The pharmacy sector is close to crisis with almost two pharmacies closing weekly over the past two years.
According to data from the NHS Business Services Authority, there are now only 11,026 community pharmacies in England — the lowest number since 2015. Rising operational costs, staff shortages and reduced government financial support are to blame.
Pharmacies will soon be under further pressure because of the Government’s planned Pharmacy First approach.
Under the new approach, patients suffering various ailments, such as sore throats or shingles, will be sent to local pharmacies first instead of GPs, with pharmacists given the scope to prescribe medications, including antibiotics, for select conditions.
According to Charac founder Santosh Sahu:
“Longer-term, this is good news, but right now, many pharmacies are focusing more on survival and will struggle to fulfil the new expanded role planned for them by the Government.
So many of Britain’s pharmacies are just not in the position they need to be to pick up the extra scope.
We intend to help significantly improve the health of community pharmacies and enable them to play the larger role expected of them.”
Charac is an app specifically designed to relieve time pressure, increase efficiency, and help drive the growth of community pharmacies, as well as boost appreciation of their services.
It allows pharmacists to manage repeat prescriptions, access patient records, create bookings and conduct consultations.
Over 400 pharmacies have already signed onto the app, which is forecast to rise to 2,000 in 2024.
Currently, around 25,000 patients are using Charac’s platform, projected to rise to 100,000 by the end of its financial year (March 2024).
In 2022, the NPA, the trade association for 80% of independent pharmacies across the UK, agreed to a long-term partnership with Charac to support and accelerate the digital transition of independent community pharmacies.
The new funding comes jointly from the National Pharmacy Association (NPA) and pharmacy owners, bringing total funding to £2.5 million.
It follows a £1 million investment from Royal Mail, which allows prescriptions ordered through the Charac app to be delivered directly to patients’ homes.
Simon Tebbutt, Director of Membership at the NPA, shared:
“We aim to help independents become more than a match for the national pharmacy chains in terms of their digital interface with patients.”
According to Santosh:
“There is an opportunity here being recognised by investors to not only capitalise on the growth of these companies but also to support healthcare systems as they undergo what can only be called a revolution in how they interact with patients.
Seven of the UK’s 47 unicorn companies are already in the healthtech sector. If the Government helped foster the growth of healthtech as it did with fintech, there could be many, many more.”
Lead image: Charac.