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DH discussions with Lloydspharmacy on Sainsbury's closure impact ongoing

The DH and NHSE are continuing to work with Lloydspharmacy on the impact of the multiple’s branch closures in Sainsbury’s supermarkets, C+D has learned.

There is an ongoing process of engagement between the Department of Health and Social Care (DH), Lloydspharmacy and NHS England (NHSE) to understand the impact of the multiple’s recent branch closures in Sainsbury’s stores, the government told C+D on Wednesday (June 14).

On Monday (June 12), C+D exclusively revealed that all 237 Lloydspharmacy branches in Sainsbury’s stores would close for good the following day, June 13.

Read more: All Sainsbury’s Lloydspharmacy branches to close by tomorrow, chain confirms

It followed the news in January, also exclusively revealed by C+D, that the multiple intended to withdraw its supermarket branches over the course of 2023 after a “strategic review of its operation in response to changing market conditions”.

A DH spokesperson told C+D that the government is “carefully monitoring access to pharmaceutical services”.

They reiterated there are “twice as many pharmacies in more deprived areas compared to less deprived areas”, and that around “80% of people live within 20 minutes’ walk of a community pharmacy”. 

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

And the DH said that the assessment of gaps in local access to pharmacy services is the responsibility of NHS health and wellbeing boards.

A Lloydspharmacy spokesperson declined to comment when approached on the impact assessment of the multiple's Sainsbury’s branch closures.

Meanwhile, NHSE did not respond to repeated requests for comment regarding its role in the impact assessment.


"Working closely" together


The DH first indicated in February that it was keeping an eye on the potential repercussions of Lloydspharmacy’s withdrawal from Sainsbury’s.

In a written Parliamentary question on February 6, Labour MP for Rotherham Sarah Champion asked whether the DH had “made an assessment of the impact” that Lloydspharmacy’s withdrawal from Sainsbury’s supermarkets would have on “former patients” and “nearby pharmacies”.

In reply, pharmacy minister Neil O’Brien said on February 14 that DH was “working closely” with NHSE and Lloydspharmacy to “assess the potential impact” of the announced closures.

Read more: DH 'assessing potential impact' of Lloydspharmacy Sainsbury's exit

When confirming the June 13 closures, Lloydspharmacy said that it was “committed to helping patients easily find a suitable alternative provision” and had been keeping patients informed when their “specific pharmacy” would close.

Paul Day, director of the union the Pharmacists’ Defence Association (PDA), said that in recent years other major chains have implemented “hundreds of other permanent pharmacy closures and operating hour reductions”. 

“Those in the NHS across the UK nations that are responsible for ensuring that pharmaceutical needs are met need to ensure that communities are being adequately served,” he said, adding that the PDA would “encourage” those responsible to approach this “proactively”.

An analysis by the Company Chemists’ Association (CCA) in February revealed that 720 pharmacies had permanently shut their doors in England since 2015.


Supermarket sweep


Lloydspharmacy is not the only major chain looking to consolidate its cache of supermarket pharmacies, however.

In January, Tesco announced proposals to close eight of its in-store pharmacies. A Tesco spokesperson told C+D at the time that these branches would close in August 2023 if the plans went ahead, with the supermarket in April confirming the closures.

Then, on June 2, Asda confirmed to C+D the closure of seven in-store pharmacies, also taking place in August this year. The closures were first proposed in January.

Read more: Wes Streeting ‘really alarmed’ by Lloydspharmacy closure reports

In April, shadow health secretary Wes Streeting said he was "really alarmed" by headlines suggesting that major community pharmacy chains such as Lloydspharmacy were considering "pulling" their branches from the market.

"We've got to grip that challenge," the Labour MP for Ilford North told delegates at an event hosted by the King's Fund on April 18.

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