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PDA 'working tirelessly' to avoid job losses after Lloyds quits Sainsbury's

The Pharmacists’ Defence Association (PDA) will work “tirelessly” to avoid job losses for those employed by Lloydspharmacy, it has said, after the multiple confirmed it would withdraw from Sainsbury’s in-store pharmacies in 2023.

C+D exclusively revealed today (January 19) that Lloydspharmacy intends to withdraw operations from its 237 Sainsbury’s in-store pharmacies “over the course of 2023”, following months of branch sale rumours.

Responding to the news, the PDA today said it had received “confidential notice” before the announcement “as the recognised trade union at Lloydspharmacy” and was continuing to represent the interests of pharmacists affected.

Read more: Lloydspharmacy to ‘withdraw’ pharmacy services from all Sainsbury’s branches

Assistant general secretary of the PDA Union, Mark Pitt, said the organisation “will be working tirelessly to avoid job losses for pharmacists, and will be protecting their interests”.

“It’s important in these situations that any distress caused to individuals is kept to a minimum and that everyone is treated with respect and dignity,” he continued.

A Lloydspharmacy spokesperson told C+D today that "how colleagues are potentially affected” by the withdrawal will “vary on a branch-by-branch basis”. 

The multiple is “working with all colleagues potentially affected by the changes” and intends to “support them through the process”, they continued.

 

Risk of redundancy

 

The PDA said that such situations can have “multiple consequences for employees”, pledging to advise members at risk of redundancy on available options and ensure they receive “adequate redundancy compensation and fair treatment”.

Some “may possibly remain with Lloydspharmacy if suitable alternative roles are available, for example at a nearby store or as a relief pharmacist”, it added. 

But the “consequences for those who are not at risk of redundancy…can also be significant,” the PDA continued, giving the example of patient volume migrating to another pharmacy.

“There needs to be enough additional resources, staffing and even physical space in the remaining store to cope with any transferring business,” it stressed.

The PDA has “seen many disposals of Lloydspharmacy branches over recent months”, Mr Pitt said, though he noted that each of these had “a buyer, [so] patients and communities have seen no reduction in availability, the pharmacy network has not lost capacity and there were no job losses”.

However, Lloydspharmacy’s withdrawal from Sainsbury’s pharmacies “is different”, he claimed, as it “means significant reductions in access to a pharmacy for patients”.

 

Morale "impacted by rumours"

 

Although Lloydspharmacy today confirmed its withdrawal from 237 branches, “the PDA is aware of intensive speculation in pharmacy circles that further closures may follow”, it stated.

However, “the PDA does not act upon rumours and pharmacists’ employment is only directly impacted by actual changes”, it continued.

However, “morale is undoubtedly impacted by rumours,” the PDA said.

Read more: 'Significant number of pharmacies' offloaded by multiples last year, broker says 

When asked about the “intensive speculation...that further closures may follow”, a Lloydspharmacy spokesperson told C+D that the multiple “regularly reviews its pharmacy estate to ensure it is operating sustainably”.

It continued: “Any decision to sell or close stores is taken in the interests of patients, colleagues and the business.  At all times, patient safety remains our top priority ensuring that we can support our customers and patients to access vital prescriptions, health advice, products and services.”

The PDA continued: “Overall, Lloydspharmacy operates around 10% of the UK’s pharmacies, so the impact is well beyond the normal level of day-to-day branch sales or closures.”

It called on “those responsible in government to publicly confirm what steps they are taking to ensure pharmacies that may be closed or sold are being adequately staffed, stocked and maintained in the meantime”.

 

What about government plans for sector?

 

Mr Pitt suggested that Lloydspharmacy’s withdrawal from Sainsbury’s contradicts UK governments’ recent moves “to make greater use of pharmacies…to reduce pressure on other parts of the healthcare system”.

“There should be greater community pharmacy capacity, not less,” Mr Pitt added.

Read more: Health minister moots ‘more funding’ for pharmacy

The PDA called on the government to clarify what is being done to ensure that the community pharmacy sector has the capacity “to take on more of the NHS workload”.

“Capacity lost in supermarkets needs to be gained on the high street or elsewhere in the community,” it stated.

The PDA also pointed the current community pharmacy contract as “a factor in any corporation’s decisions to dispose of pharmacies”.

The union first extended its support to pharmacists employed by Lloydspharmacy in November, reassuring members that when an existing business is acquired and absorbed into another, existing employees “should not see any major changes to their working arrangements because of the transfer”.

Check the C+D site for the latest coverage on this developing story

 

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