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Tesco Pharmacy stands by controversial leaflets in temporary closure latest

Tesco has defended printing leaflets that direct patients to its other pharmacies in the first instance, rather than the closest local pharmacy, when it temporarily closes one of its branches. 

The leaflets, which the supermarket has confirmed to C+D are displayed on its pharmacy counters if the branch has had to close, first direct patients to collect their medication at other nearby Tesco Pharmacy branches, leaving a blank space for staff to write in the name of the other store.

Only then do the leaflets point patients to the NHS website and the NHS111 number so they can find other pharmacies’ details.

Read more: Tesco points to ‘higher’ fixed locum rates after claims about lowballing hourly pay

Tesco believes it is not easy to point patients towards other local pharmacies on these leaflets, C+D understands, because it is difficult to keep track of the pharmacies in the different catchment areas of its 370-plus branches.

Images of the leaflets surfaced on Twitter earlier this week. 

Replying to a tweet showing a picture of one of the leaflets, Pharmacists' Defence Association (PDA) Union national officer for Scotland Paul Flynn slammed the move as "totally unethical".

Meanwhile, CEO of the Pharmacist Cooperative Tohidul Islam tweeted that the move suggested the supermarket chain was expecting "a lot of closures".



Recent controversies


It comes after the PDA last week (July 19) claimed that Tesco was shuttering its pharmacies when no cover could be found, after reportedly pressuring locum pharmacists to walk back on pre-agreed rates or risk losing out on shifts.

The supermarket did not directly address these allegations when approached for comment by C+D.

Instead, it pointed to the new fixed locum rates – capped £36 per hour for emergency cover – it debuted in its pharmacies earlier this month. These rates will result in a higher hourly rate for most of the locums Tesco engages, it claimed.

Read more: Off their trolley: Has Tesco Pharmacy pushed the locum rate row to new highs?

A spokesperson told C+D last week that Tesco’s pharmacy managers are “working to ensure [pharmacies] have the cover [they] need” in areas facing “particularly challenging” demand, in response to claims that it is unnecessarily closing pharmacies in the short-term.

The supermarket chain knows it has an obligation to provide pharmacy services in stores where it has an NHS license and will do whatever it can to ensure its pharmacies stay open, C+D understands.

The PDA published a blistering open letter last week (July 19), hitting out at “unnecessary” full- or part-day branch closures by some large community pharmacy chains.

The Company Chemists’ Association issued its own retort to the union’s letter, which detailed the staffing issue plaguing that pharmacy sector and defended the large chains that make up its membership for “working extraordinarily hard to prevent temporary closures".



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