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'A wake-up call': All the reaction to the Lloydspharmacy Sainsbury's exit

Pharmacy leaders have reacted to the news that Lloydspharmacy will withdraw from all Sainsbury's stores, warning that many more closures will follow without urgent investment into the sector.

C+D exclusively revealed today (January 19) that Lloydspharmacy will withdraw pharmacy services from all Sainsbury’s stores “over the course of 2023”.

The announcement followed months of sale rumours and will affect 237 branches.

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

Pharmacy leaders across the sector have reacted to the news, warning that many more community pharmacy closures will follow without urgent investment into the sector. 


PSNC: “Many are at breaking point”


Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) chief executive Janet Morrison commented: “This significant shrinkage by the second largest pharmacy chain is an extremely worrying development and one of the clearest signals yet of just how much all community pharmacies are struggling to make ends meet."

“We know that many are at breaking point,” she said.

She added that community pharmacies are “facing more extreme pressures than ever before”, with a real-terms funding cut of around 30% over the past seven years.

Read more: Pharmacy bodies join forces to fight for more funding as closure threat looms

“We understand that Lloydspharmacy will be in touch directly with affected staff and patients at this difficult time,” Ms Morrison said.

And “other pharmacies locally will be braced for even more pressures as they try to cope with increased demand” as these pharmacies close, she warned.

“The community pharmacy network is the answer to so many of the health service’s problems, but right now many are struggling to keep going”, she said, with funding and workforce pressures “making it increasingly difficult to sustain services and impossible to do more”.

Read more: Pharmacy will continue to face staff and inflation pressures in 2023, broker says

“Without further investment, we believe more permanent closures are likely” and the government “must not allow this to happen”, Ms Morrison added.

“I am calling on ministers to meet me for meaningful talks to avoid such a catastrophe,” she said.


AIMp: “Where does this leave the rest of us?”


Reacting to the news on Twitter, chief executive of the Association of Independent Multiple pharmacies (AIMp) Dr Leyla Hannbeck said it “shows the huge financial burden pharmacy sector is under”.

“If big organisations like Lloydspharmacy are struggling [to] make pharmacies pay, where does that leave the rest of us?” she asked.

The government and NHS England “must step in and provide emergency funding to pharmacies urgently before more pharmacies go under, leaving the public without crucial healthcare services”, she warned.

“Enough is enough,” Dr Hannbeck told C+D.

 

Phoenix: “This has to be a wake-up call” 


Nigel Swift, deputy managing director of Phoenix UK – parent company of both Rowlands and Numark – said the announcement is “the clearest possible sign of the dire situation facing community pharmacy in England as a result of insufficient government funding”. 

“This has to be a wake-up call for government,” he said.

He added that there has been a “massive cut” in real-term funding since the start of the pharmacy contract, resulting in “hundreds of closures”.

Read more: PSNC kicks off ‘proper discussions’ on Pharmacy First with DH

But “at a time when the NHS is in crisis, the community pharmacy network is needed more than ever before”, Mr Swift said.

“These closures will put even more pressure on already overstretched nearby pharmacies and dilute patient access to essential healthcare services, particularly in deprived communities,” he warned.

And he added that a “pharmacy first” approach to relieve pressure on other parts of the NHS – mooted by the government – “cannot be delivered through a network that is under-funded and in decline”.


CCA: “The funding model is broken”

 

Company Chemists’ Association (CCA) chief executive Malcolm Harrison called on the government to act, reiterating that the NHS has reached “an indisputable fork in the road”

“At a time when general practice and the NHS are struggling with ever-increasing demand, allowing the community pharmacy network to wither and decline will make no sense to patients and the public,” he told C+D.

Read more: CCA: Funding model ‘broken’ as each pharmacy facing £67k yearly shortfall

“Policymakers cannot escape the fact that the funding model for community pharmacy is broken,” he added.

“If new and recurrent funding is not forthcoming, it is very likely that the rate of permanent closures will increase, with far-reaching impacts on the capacity and resilience of the pharmacy network,” he said.

 

NPA: "What hope is there" for smaller pharmacies?

 

 

National Pharmacy Association (NPA) chief executive Mark Lyonette said the announcement gave further proof that “the financials no longer stack up for community pharmacy and NHS funding is totally inadequate”.

He continued: “When the second largest pharmacy company in the UK has to scale down like this, with all the resources at its disposal, what hope is there for the long-term viability of the smaller pharmacies we represent, which are grimly hanging on?”

An NPA-commissioned report published last year pointed to a sector in crisis, warning that thousands of community pharmacies in England were facing a “real risk" of closure. 

Mr Lyonette continued: “Now we see the downward spiral playing out in reality – not just [with] Lloydspharmacy but many others who are taking difficult decisions about staffing, opening hours, reduced services and closures.

“What will it take to get the government and NHS England to act, before it’s too late for the thousands of independent pharmacies at the cliff-edge?”

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

 

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