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‘Battle for survival’: All the reaction as Boots unveils plans to close 300 branches

Pharmacy leaders have reacted to the news that Boots is set to axe 300 branches, warning that they form part of a wider pattern of pharmacy closures.

Boots confirmed on Tuesday (June 27) that it will close 300 of its branches over the next year, bringing its portfolio from approximately 2,200 branches to around 1,900.

The multiple has not confirmed the locations of the affected pharmacies but it has indicated that they are branches that are located near one another.

Read more: Boots reveals plans to close 300 branches

Boots told C+D at the time that there will be no impact to pharmacy roles or other store roles, with full deployment opportunities for impacted team members.

But sector leaders yesterday (June 29) told C+D their concerns that the closures reflect a wider pattern across the sector, saying that running a pharmacy has now become a “battle for survival”.

 

AIMp: Remaining teams “seeing their workload double”

 

Chief executive of the Association of Independent Multiple Pharmacies (AIMp) Leyla Hannbeck warned that “remaining community pharmacies are seeing their workload double without any remuneration”.

It follows “years” where “community pharmacies in England have been starved of funding”, she said.

 

She told C+D: “If a big multiple like Boots is struggling, then you can imagine what independents are going through. We have seen nearly 1,000 pharmacies closing their doors for good since 2015 as a result of underinvestment in the sector.”

 

Read more: Mapped: Areas hardest hit by supermarket pharmacy closures

She pointed out that pharmacy closures impact on patients' access to care, but accused “those in positions of power” of seeming “unphased by this”.

She noted that NHS decision-makers often "talk about the importance of patient care". But she asked: “If patient care is important to them, why are they allowing the demise of a loved sector that is a key player in primary care with a track record of delivery great accessible patient care?”

And she cautioned that “if no action is taken to address the current shortfall in pharmacy funding, more pharmacies will be forced to close their doors for good”.

 

CPE: “A battle for survival”

 

The chief executive of Community Pharmacy England (CPE), formerly the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC), Janet Morrsion said the consolidation plans came as “no surprise”. They formed part of a “trend that is reflective of the very difficult current trading conditions” in the sector, she added.

 

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

 

She called on the government and the NHS to act swiftly to “reverse the damage that their historic funding cuts are causing”.

 

She said: “While consolidations can make a difference across large networks, smaller and medium-sized businesses are having to look at other options in the struggle to make ends meet: running a community pharmacy remains, for most, a battle for survival.”

 

NPA: “A wider pattern”

 

Director of corporate affairs at the National Pharmacy Association (NPA) Gareth Jones said that while Boots had “its own unique circumstances”, its decision to close hundreds of branches “is consistent with a wider pattern of consolidations and closures in the pharmacy sector”.

Read more: DH discussions with Lloydspharmacy on Sainsbury's closure impact ongoing

However, he pointed out that many independent pharmacies are also “facing difficult decisions about their future viability right now and they do not have the resources that the nationwide chains can call upon”. 

While he acknowledged that recently-announced government funding for the upcoming Pharmacy First service in England would “help”, he stressed that it would not “reach the financial bottom line for quite some time”.

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

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