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Community ‘shocked’ that Rowlands pharmacy will close after NHSE&I rejected merger

A Rowlands branch in Swindon will close and staff transferred to another branch, despite NHSE&I's opposition to the multiple’s application to merge the pharmacy with another.

Rowlands originally proposed to shut the branch located on 167 Rodbourne Road, Swindon, and direct customers to another pharmacy “788 metres away” on Park Lane in February.

However, plans for the proposed merge were halted in June following protests from the local council - leaving the local community "shocked", according to one councillor.

In a statement to C+D today (September 6), Rowlands confirmed that the Rodbourne Road pharmacy will in fact close on October 11.

“All staff will move to our nearby Park Lane branch following the closure and patients and customers are welcomed to move across, too,” the multiple said.

“Helping to make the transition as smooth as possible, patients' electronic prescription service requests can now be redirected.”

Kevin Small, councillor for Central Swindon North Parish Council, who helped lead a campaign to keep the Rodbourne Road branch open, told C+D that the local community is “shocked to hear that Rowlands [is] still closing our pharmacy after NHS England ruled it could not be merged with [the] Park Lane branch, as the Rodbourne community needs a local pharmacy facility”.

Mr Small told C+D it was his opinion that “the merger is going ahead in all but name”, as staff and prescriptions are being transferred to the Park Lane branch.

However, a spokesperson for NHS England and NHS Improvement (NHSE&I) South West region said the closure “is a business decision, entirely in the hands of the owners and permitted under pharmacy regulations”.

“It’s open for any other provider to apply to open an outlet in the area, so we can consider it. In the meantime, there are many other pharmacies near the Rodbourne Road site that people can have their prescriptions sent to by notifying their GP,” they added.

Mr Small said he has written to various NHSE&I leaders and the pharmacy minister Jo Churchill on the matter and is also writing to the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman to register a complaint about NHSE&I’s handling of the situation.

In 2016, the Department of Health and Social Care introduced a regulation designed to allow pharmacies to merge nearby branches and close one of them in an effort to reduce pharmacy “clusters”.

Have any pharmacies closed in your area in the past 12 months?

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