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Rowlands ‘considering next steps’ after Liverpool merger rejected

Rowlands Pharmacy is considering its “next steps” after its proposal to merge two Liverpool branches was rejected last month, C+D has learned. 

Rowlands had applied to merge its branch on Lodge Lane with its store at The Elms, both in Liverpool’s L8 area, local commissioners confirmed last week (May 30).

 

But the consolidation proposal was rejected by the Pharmaceutical Services Regulation Committee for Cheshire and Merseyside, they told C+D.

 

Read more: Revealed: Locations of Lloydspharmacy branches bought by Rowlands

 

According to a spokesperson for NHS Cheshire and Merseyside (NHS CM), the committee “considered the application” but “made the decision not to approve the consolidation” proposed by Rowlands.

 

Rowlands was sent the documents relating to the committee’s decision “in line with the regulatory process”, they said.

 

Read more: UPDATED: Rowlands snaps up 30 Lloydspharmacy branches in Scotland

 

A spokesperson for Rowlands told C+D this week (June 5) that the multiple was “disappointed” by the decision, adding that they were “confident” that its proposal would have allowed it to “continue to meet local needs”.

 

The spokesperson said that the multiple is now “considering our next steps”.

 

Read more: Former Rowlands pharmacy in Swindon re-opens this week following NHS ruling

 

“We firmly believe that the current level of funding for the sector is inadequate and is forcing increased levels of consolidation to maintain patients’ vital access to community pharmacy,” they told C+D.

 

“We will continue to provide the best care possible for the community in light of the NHSE’s decision,” they said.

 

 

Mergers made – and denied

 

 

In 2021, Rowlands had another proposal to merge two Swindon branches turned down by NHS England and NHS Improvement. The local council led protests against Rowlands’ merger application, C+D reported at the time.

 

Despite local outcry, Rowlands closed the branch in October 2021 and patients were told to visit its other branch nearby.

Read more: Swindon pharmacy saved as NHS rules former Rowlands site should re-open

A pharmacist’s application was granted by NHSE in January 2022, but Rowlands then attempted to block the re-opening of the pharmacy by lodging an appeal with NHS Resolutions.

But the Swindon pharmacy reopened under new ownership in January this year, after NHS Resolutions approved an application to re-open it in November 2022, despite objections from both the multiple and Boots.

 

Read more: NHSE&I and local council halt Rowlands’ plans to merge two pharmacies

 

Other pharmacies have also recently revealed plans to merge branches.

 

In March, C+D revealed that Weldricks Pharmacy had applied to merge two of its branches in the Rotherham area after its GP landlord hiked rent “by around 25%”, making the premises unaffordable. The GP practice revealed plans to appeal the closure the following month.

 

Read more: 'No longer viable': York pharmacies to merge amid spiralling staff costs

 

Also in March, Peak Pharmacy announced plans to close one of its branches and merge it with another in Chapel-en-le-Frith, Derbyshire, citing “economic pressures” as a “driving force” behind their decision.

 

And in May, two York pharmacies owned by Citywide Health also announced their intention to merge, citing staff costs at a 100-hour branch and “significant” rent costs making the site “no longer viable”.

 

Read more: Rowlands responds to speculation about sale of 79 branches

 

Meanwhile, Rowlands hit the headlines last month after it announced the purchase of 30 Lloydspharmacy branches in Scotland in what it called a "significant investment in growing our network north of the border".

But in October, the company had reported a post-tax loss of £34.6 million in the year ending January 31, 2022 – almost three times higher than the previous year.

 

In January, Rowlands told C+D that rumours about the sale of 79 of its branches were “speculative” and that “no divestments” had been agreed.

 

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