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Weldricks forced to merge branches after GP landlord hikes rent by 25%

Weldricks Pharmacy has applied to merge two of its branches in the Rotherham area after rent increases by its GP landlord made premises unaffordable, C+D has learned.

The two pharmacies in Swinton, Rotherham, are on Church Street and in the Crown Street Surgery.

The multiple, which currently has 62 pharmacies across South Yorkshire, is looking to consolidate the sites and close its Crown Street branch.

Read more: Peak Pharmacy closes Derbyshire branch as funding calls intensify

 

A spokesperson for Weldricks told C+D that the merger is due to the GP surgery landlord hiking their rent costs by around a quarter.

 

“The GPs in the surgery are the landlords for the part of the surgery that we rent for the pharmacy and they are increasing the rent by around 25% this year,” they claimed.

 

“Not affordable”

 

Space was another of the “spurs for consolidation”, the spokesperson told C+D.

“The space in the surgery pharmacy is far too small to deal with the expanding range of NHS services we are expected to deliver as well as the continuous increase in prescriptions that all pharmacies are facing,” they said.

Weldricks owns its other Swinton pharmacy premises, which is “much larger”, the spokesperson added.

Read more: All Lloydspharmacy branches reportedly ‘at risk’ of closure

 

“Rather than pay out all that money in high rent to the GPs, which is not affordable in today’s funding environment anyway, we decided to invest it in our own premises where we could give patients an improved service level from that investment,” they told C+D.

 

C+D approached Crown Street Surgery for comment.

 

"Run out of ways to reduce costs”

 

Weldricks, which has been a local family-owned business for nearly 100 years, told The Star that it has “of course resisted closing any of our pharmacies, taking alternative steps to reduce our costs”.

Read more: ‘No assessment' of funding impact on pharmacy closures, says DH

“But we have now run out of ways in which we can reduce costs and so we are now faced with decisions such as merging pharmacies to protect these vital services in the community,” it said.

“Having spent nearly 100 years growing this family business to the size it is now, it is with deep regret that we are having to consider this action in Swinton,” it added.

 

One pharmacy “deemed sufficient”

 

Director of public health for Rotherham Council Ben Anderson confirmed to C+D that NHS England (NHSE) has been notified of Weldricks’ decision to merge the two pharmacy services in Swinton and close the site at Crown Street.

 

The council’s health and wellbeing board “has a duty to undertake a pharmaceutical needs assessment for Rotherham and as such is consulted on proposals to make changes to services as part of the NHSE process”, he said.

 

Read more: Boots reports 2% pharmacy sales growth amid renewed sale rumours

 

The board “acknowledges that there will be impacts of this change on residents who make regular use of the Crown Street pharmacy, especially those who do so directly from the doctors’ surgery on Crown Street”, Mr Anderson told C+D. 

 

But he added that “having one pharmacy operating within such a relatively small area has been deemed sufficient to meet minimum standards in the community”.

 

 

“Minimal impact”

 

  

Council documents related to the application, seen by C+D, confirmed that there will be “no disruption to service provision during the consolidation” such as closure for development work.

 

All advanced and enhanced services are currently provided at the Church Street branch and will continue to be after the closure of the other premises and there will be “no reduction of hours” due to the merger, the documents added. 

 

Read more: Well Pharmacy reports 15% dip in profits amid rising locum costs

 

With the sites just 100m apart, the papers concluded that “there will be minimal impact as a result of this change”.

 

This includes “pharmacy access in the borough based on the service offer, opening hours and walking times to this branch and the main pharmacy”, they said.

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