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Asda made most last-minute 100-hour applications

Exclusive Asda and a pharmacy company that specialises in GP pharmacies made almost a third of the applications for 100-hour pharmacies during the nine-month consultation before the exemption was scrapped.

Asda and Community Pharmacies (UK), which specialises in setting up pharmacies in GP practices, led the rush to make last-minute 100-hour pharmacy applications, a C+D investigation has found.

The two companies were together responsible for more than a quarter of the applications made during the nine-month government consultation on scrapping the 100-hour rule between November 2011 and July 2012, an FOI request submitted to 146 PCTs across England revealed.

Asda and Community Pharmacies (UK) put in an average of two 100-hour applications a week during the consultation period

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Within the 87 PCTs that responded to C+D, Asda and pharmacist-led Community Pharmacies (UK) each put in 81 applications – two a week – to open 100-hour pharmacies over the period.

This was 29 per cent of the total 553 applications. And the big four supermarket chains – Asda, Tesco, Sainsbury's and Morrisons – together represented 24 per cent of the total applications.

The 100-hour pharmacy exemption had "changed the face of pharmacy" and there was still "a lot more pain to come" for contractors, warned the Independent Pharmacy Federation (IPF).

If the Community Pharmacies (UK) applications all came to fruition, this could put a further strain on GP-pharmacist relations, it said, as GPs gave patients "subtle encouragement" to pick up their prescriptions on the premises.

"I think we're going to see an impact on pharmacists as a result of these openings. It's very poor in terms of the relationship between GPs and pharmacists," IPF chief executive Claire Ward told C+D.

Pharmacist contractor Mike Hewitson of Beaminster Pharmacy, Dorset, was concerned by the "massive abuse potential" in setting up pharmacies in GP practices. One surgery pharmacy had converted a number of patients from 100-day prescriptions to 28-day intervals, he reported.

"Why should prescription intervals change based on commercial imperatives?" he asked. "Conflict of interest is massive."

When it came to supermarket pharmacies, Mr Hewitson said they could be a "good thing" in certain areas, but stressed that companies should not make "blanket applications" that undermined local pharmacy businesses.

Kevin Cottrell, general manager of SG Court Group, said he had seen supermarket pharmacies have a "big effect" on local contractors. "We've had an Asda open up near one of our pharmacies and it's taken away probably about 10 per cent of our business," he told C+D.

But Asda superintendent John Evans argued that the exemption had also served to boost the independent sector. He said the 100-hour exemption had helped Asda increase its number of pharmacies from 95 to 253 over the past eight years, but had also presented an opportunity for pharmacists to start up their own business.

"For young pharmacists, that was the only route they had [to ownership]," he told C+D. "I think multiples will now make up the vast majority of pharmacies in the UK and I don't think that's a good thing."

Nearly half of all 100-hour applications made over the period of C+D's FOI request came from independent parties.

Community Pharmacies (UK) declined to comment.

What is Community Pharmacies (UK)?

Community Pharmacies (UK) aims to set up pharmacies in partnership with GP surgeries to create a "new vision in integrated pharmacy services" and on its website it advertises its services specifically to GP partners, practice managers and consortium managers.

It put in 81 100-hour pharmacy applications between November 2011 and July 2012, concentrating in the south-east of England - 11 in Surrey, seven in Hampshire and five in the Kent and Medway cluster.

The company tended to put in speculative applications and, once agreed, approached GPs with the offer of a partnership, contractors told C+D. A preliminary consent application does not need a premises.  

The company's director Andrew Murray was the founder of Assura Pharmacy, and is also the owner of consultancy business APM Healthcare, which sells pharmacy contracts and businesses. According to the APM Healthcare website, the company is "currently marketing a number of pharmacy contracts for sale".

How would you be affected if these 100-hour applications came to fruition?

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Small Pharm Owner, Other pharmacy staff

I seem to remember no less then 6 months ago Asda wanting to reduce core hours on their 100 hour contracts as they were not sustainable so it seems rather irresponsible to be submitting mass applications! Lets be honest and just admit that this is not about making pharmacy more accessible to patients it is about greed,

Chris Pharmacist, Community pharmacist

I think this is the next step. Now that the 100 hour exemption has expired the need for pharmacies to actually open 100 hours will be questioned.

Expect supermarkets to lobby gov't/GPhC to end the 100 hour arrangement arguing that it is unnecessary.

History has shown that the multiples usually get their own way although this will no doubt be favourable for many struggling 100 hour independants.

Gerry Diamond, Primary care pharmacist

Cannot blame anyone trying to get a 100 hour contract,,,,,and why not!

Pillman Forever, Community pharmacist

...duh!, reducing amount each pharmacy gets from the global sum!, therefore each new pharmacy effects all other pharmacies.

I hope these 100 hours will "OPEN" for a 100 hours a week, not tannoy / hatch systems as seen in the article earlier this week, which are not really full pharmaceutical service!

Leon The Apothecary, Student

At least with Supermarket pharmacies, you can expect to be able to walk into the store without fear of having to speak through a hole-in-the-wall.

Keith Sykes, Community pharmacist

I see Community Pharmacies (UK) "sells" pharmacy contracts. Surely these contracts are only preliminary consent & would need to be fully operational & trading before being "sold on" otherwise another application would be needed by the purchaser & the exemption has closed. Am I missing something ?

Paul Kelly, Superintendent

I would agree but Assura applied for prelimainary consent on a full contractabout jus under a mile from us. When they opened they weren't Assura but Community Pharmacies (UK) trading as the name our pharmacy was known by.

Brian Austen, Senior Management

There have been very many 100 hour contracts for sale in December and January. In most cases they have already received full consent. The going rate for buying the asset is £40K to £50K. The majority will not be sold because there is no viable business plan attached to them. The contracts will lapse. Some will be sold at lower and lower prices as they get nearer to the deadline for opening a pharmacy or the contract lapsing. The companies that made speculative applications only have to sell a very few to cover their costs so they will probably still profit one way or another. Once the buyer opens a pharmacy they may have to make a change of ownership application.

Nick Hunter, Community pharmacist

Brian you have hit the nail on the head - most of these 100 hour applications don't have a robust business plan which then in many cases leaves the contractors operating them struggling and in the case of GP partners somewhat unhappy at the their profit share - x% of very little or nothing is making some of them look at what opportunities they can use to increase the script flow and get into areas suggested by Clare and Mike in the article.
An example of the lack of forethought in many of these 100 hour pharmacies in GP practices is the space available for the pharmacy - it simply is not big enough to accommodate the stock and staff required to turnover the amount of scripts to make the business viable

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