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Lloydspharmacy ‘temporarily’ cuts trading hours in 100-hour Sainsbury's branches

Lloydspharmacy will reduce the trading hours of its 100-hour branches located in Sainsbury’s supermarkets until January 2022 due to “workforce challenges”, it has told its staff. 

In a letter, which was shared on Twitter yesterday evening (November 2) and appears to have been sent by the multiple to branch retail managers, Lloydspharmacy said the changes would come into effect from next Monday (November 8) and would last until January 29, 2022.

C+D has asked Lloydspharmacy if these measures will be implemented across all branches located at Sainsbury’s stores, but a spokesperson told C+D this afternoon that they had nothing further to add beyond the information that has already been shared via the letter.

The details of these changes have been communicated to staff and patients, the spokesperson added.


Workforce challenges


The spokesperson confirmed to C+D that these changes relate to the recruitment challenges that the community pharmacy sector is facing at present.

The multiple wrote in its letter that it had “made the decision to reduce the trading hours of our Lloydspharmacy in Sainsbury’s pharmacies who operate 100-hour contracts… to ensure we can reduce the number of part/full closures which have been prevalent of late.

“Against the backdrop of the pandemic and changing behaviours within the locum population” the letter added, this “has further exacerbated a reduction in workforce availability”.

The trading day for Sainsbury’s pharmacies that currently operate 100-hour contracts will shift to 09:00-21:00 Monday-Saturday “as standard”. Sunday trading hours will remain unchanged.


Changes “enacted” under emergency COVID-19 regulations


The changes to trading hours will be “enacted”, the letter said, “as part of the emergency declaration of flexible provision of pharmaceutical services until the end of January 2022”.

Under the Advanced and Enhanced Services and Emergency Declaration, contractors may use relevant provisions in the terms of service on temporary opening hours and closures during an emergency. 

This declaration of emergency was first introduced to help maintain pharmacy services during the COVID-19 outbreak and in September, it was extended until January 31, 2022.

Until January 2022, contractors are still allowed to make temporary changes to opening hours or temporary closures when they fulfil some requirements: first, after adequate reasons for these changes have been provided to NHS England and NHS Improvement (NHSE&I); second, having given a 24-hour notice of these changes to NHSE&I; third, after NHSE&I has agreed to these changes or has not objected to them.

“Both the NHS and Sainsbury’s head office have been informed of our intentions, and services such as, google etc. will be updated to reflect these hours,” the letter added. 

C+D has approached NHSE&I and Sainsbury’s for comment.


Reduced access to pharmacies “never better for patients”


The Pharmacists' Defence Association (PDA) director Paul Day told C+D: “Reduced access to pharmacies is never better for patients and can work against efforts to promote community pharmacy as the most accessible part of the NHS available in the heart of communities. However, this is something that the NHS, and in this case Sainsbury’s have apparently agreed.”

He added: “Pharmacists have lives outside of work, often including caring responsibilities, and so can’t be assumed to be able to change their working patterns.”

Mr Day called for an “open discussion” between employers, employees and their representatives “about possible changes to each individual’s working pattern and what to do if they cannot be agreed”. The PDA will advise and support members to respond to “such proposals”, he added.

He told C+D: “Reducing overall operating hours can also make the period that a store continues to [be] open even busier, and that may mean more resource is required during those times to enable the workload of the previous longer week to be undertaken in the remaining shorter period. Again, members concerned with what they consider as inadequate staffing levels should contact the PDA for advice.”

Meanwhile, the Company Chemists' Association (CCA) told C+D: “We are aware that a lot of pharmacy businesses are being impacted by the current workforce crisis. However, we cannot comment on the decisions or actions that individual CCA members take.”


Private equity acquisitions stoke fear about “cuts and closures”


On Monday (November 1), Lloydspharmacy’s parent company McKesson announced it had sold off its UK businesses to the private equity firm Aurelius Group for £477 million.

The deal covers all Lloydspharmacy’s 1,325 branches across the UK, the wholesaler AAH, app LloydsDirect (formerly known as Echo), Lloydspharmacy Online Doctor, travel health service MASTA and the John Bell & Croyden pharmacy branch in London.

Following this announcement, Mr Day said: “The nature of acquisitions is that the purchasers believe they can get extra value from the business and the fear of acquisitions, especially by private equity is that this is attempted through cuts and closures.

“However, an alternative strategy is to invest and improve and the PDA hopes to work positively with Lloydspharmacy management to improve the operations of Lloydspharmacy so that well-resourced, well-managed branches can bring Aurelius the profits they need while simultaneously improving the experience of pharmacists and patients.”


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