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AIMp chief: State-owned pharmacies restrict patient and staff choice

Having worked for a state-owned pharmacy in Sweden, AIMp’s CEO said the shadow chancellor’s ambitions to nationalise pharmacies in the UK would hinder patients’ choice.

Working in a “state-owned monopoly” would take away pharmacists’ “ambition and aspirations”, as they would all work for the same company with few career progression opportunities, the Association of Independent Multiple Pharmacies (AIMp) chief executive Leyla Hannbeck told C+D.

Responding to shadow chancellor John McDonnell’s comments on the Labour party’s ambitions to bring UK pharmacies “in-house”, Ms Hannbeck said having worked for Sweden’s state-run pharmacy sector – before the government decided to denationalise in 2009 – the model “becomes kind of monotone”, with no “innovation and variation”.

“[State-run pharmacy chain] Apoteket AB was the only thing we knew as community pharmacy and our only choice as an employer,” she told C+D yesterday (November 6).

As a pharmacist working in a non-competitive market, “you feel there’s not much that you can do”, added Ms Hannbeck, who pointed out remuneration would be the same everywhere and pharmacists could not aspire to owning their own pharmacy.

“Taking away patient joy”

When nationalised, all pharmacies in Sweden had the same name and stocked the same products, which Ms Hannbeck said “took the patients’ joy away”, as they did not have the same choice as in a competitive market.

In the UK, there are “different types of pharmacies” and owners can tailor their businesses depending on what they want to achieve and “based on the needs in their local area”, Ms Hannbeck added.

AIMp: Is this official Labour policy?

AIMp said the Labour party should specify if Mr McDonnell’s comments are part of Labour's official policy on community pharmacy.

“Community pharmacies in the UK work hard to bring the best patient care to their communities and bring great value for the NHS and the healthcare service as a whole.

“We will work closely with the next government to ensure that they understand the vital role we play in bringing frontline healthcare to all communities.”

Gareth Jones, head of corporate affairs at the National Pharmacy Association, said: “We suspect that John McDonnell was not referring to community pharmacy in his comments. However, we will contact the Labour party to get a clarification that removes any doubt.”

The Labour party told C+D it did not have anything to add at this time.

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