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Lloyds 'closures' affect 'just 1.6%' of all pharmacies, DH points out

The potential closure of 190 Lloydspharmacy branches “represents just 1.6%” of pharmacies in England, the Department of Health (DH) has pointed out.

Lloydspharmacy parent company Celesio UK announced yesterday (October 26) it will cease trading in 190 “commercially unviable” branches across England, “through a combination of store closures and divestments”.

Celesio UK managing director Cormac Tobin put the decision down to “changes to government policy on reimbursement and retrospective clawbacks over the past two years”.

Responding to the announcement, a DH spokesperson told C+D: “There are almost 12,000 private community pharmacies in England – 1,000 more than in 2010.

“These closures represent just 1.6% of the total.”

The DH said its policy around community pharmacy is to release savings that can be spent elsewhere in the NHS, and claimed that the Pharmacy Access Scheme will help ensure patients will still be able to access a pharmacist.

“We're making sure patients in areas with fewer services continue to have access to a pharmacist,” the DH added.

You can read C+D editor James Waldron's reaction to the DH's comments here.

"Private businesses" can decide where to operate

Responding to the news, NHS England stressed there are “20% more [pharmacies] than in 2005”.

“As private businesses, [community pharmacies] are of course able to decide where to operate, but fortunately 40% of pharmacies are within 10 minutes’ walk of two or more other pharmacies,” the commissioning body added.

“First of many”

Julie Cooper, MP for Burnley and Padiham, told C+D she is “not surprised” by the Lloydspharmacy closures and “fears” that they will be “the first of many”.

“Dozens of the pharmacists that I have spoken to were really worried about the impact [of the funding cuts in England],” she said. “[Former pharmacy minister Alistair Burt] did say that he feared it could be as many as 3,000 [closures].”

Ms Cooper – who used to own and run a community pharmacy with her pharmacist husband – said elderly and disabled people will be most impacted by pharmacy closures.

“Their needs won’t just disappear because the pharmacy is closing,” she said. “[There is an] assumption that remaining pharmacists can pick up the business. Maybe they will, maybe they won’t.”

According to documents revealed during the funding cuts court case in March, the government believes a “rapid” increase in the number of pharmacies has resulted in “many high streets in the UK having clusters of small pharmacies”.

However, Ms Cooper stressed community pharmacies “are only in clusters because that is where the demand for service is”.

“They are clustered around doctors’ surgeries, in high density population areas and where there are high levels of deprivation,” she said. “[Pharmacies] are opening to respond to demand, not just because they are keeping each other company.”

“Huge impact”

Labour MP for Rother Valley Kevin Barron told C+D that the Lloydspharmacy news is “awful” for staff across the country, and agreed with Ms Cooper that any closures will have a “huge impact on patients who rely on these important services”.

“The huge [funding] cuts to the sector are now showing. More funding is needed urgently,” he stressed.

Mr Barron – who is chair of the all-party pharmacy group (APPG) – said he will ask pharmacy minister Steve Brine about Lloydspharmacy’s decision at the group's meeting on Monday (October 30).

11 Comments
Question: 
What do you make of the DH's and NHS England's comments?

H Gokul, Community pharmacist

How come the Govt. still does not know what we do after being in existance for over 150 years. What are the Mr and Mrs Lords (Sharp)  at PSNC doing? They do nothing so they get their knighthoods etc. Same with NPA who just talk big but achieve nothing. Their languagr is all about how hard they work and what bad news they can give us. Have either of those bodies changed one govt, plan?

Not fit for purpose

Richard MacLeavy, Non Pharmacist Branch Manager

Its interesting how both the department of health and NHS England comment that there is now more pharmacies than some previous time as if to almost make the point that numbers need to be brought back in line. They fail to notice that Rx volumes have risen dramatically since 2010 and 2005 respectively and also that workload per pharmacy has increased as the number of pharmacies hasn't increased as quickly as workload. 

Jonny Johal, Pharmacy Area manager/ Operations Manager

I am not surprised that some Lloyds branches are closing, there are simply too many of them. At one time, at a crossroad in Birmingham, there were Lloyds pharmacies on 3 out of the 4 corners, then there were those unviable branches like the one in the New Street Station which I suspect was kept open for financial reasons. Quite apart from Lloyds, I think there are too many pharmacies in the UK and a ‘correction’ is now inevitable. What the GPhC needs to do now is proper workforce planning, but they can’t do that unless they know what role community pharmacies are going to do ... ummm... this is not good. 

Julie Friday, Accuracy checking technician

In some places there are also loads of Boots stores clusted together. Where i live there are four Boots in one town.

Barry Pharmacist, Community pharmacist

If the government was serious about pharmacy delivering clinical services there are not too many pharmacies. The problem for the NHS is there are too many people to treat in traditional ways. The service needs to have more rapid access to healthcare in communities, out of hospitals. These are called community pharmacies. The problem is no government has had faith in community pharmacy to provide the services they need. They don't get pharmacy and never will.

Honest Pharmacist, Community pharmacist

"The potential closure of 190 Lloydspharmacy branches “represents just 1.6%” of pharmacies in England, the Department of Health (DH) has pointed out"...

This may JUST be "1.6%" to the DH...I'm sure that will be of GREAT comfort to what will proably be "1,500" staff at Lloyds who will be losing their jobs!

THE GOVERNMENT AND THE DH ARE MORONS!

Farhat Ahmed, Locum pharmacist

this government will lead this great nation to recession and small businesses to bankruptcy. Well done bravo you dip sticks

Simon MEDLEY, Community pharmacist

every journey starts with a single footstep.... ( probaly what the government is hoping )

Barry Pharmacist, Community pharmacist

Julie Cooper is spot on. In a few years time we will look back on this moment and think - pharmacy closures, I remembered when it started. For years we have almost begged every government to allow pharmacists to provide more clinical services. Our leaders and the NHS negotiators came up with a new contract in 2005 with MURs. A well-intended service that pharmacists took up well to begin with but because of workforce pressures became the fiasco that they are today. There is no point banging on about pharmacies being able to do healthcare checks, COPD checks, and support for long-term conditions because community pharmacy is at breaking point. Pharmacy cuts = staff cuts = not enough funding to invest = turning once great pharmacies into dreary shop units where staff morale is on the floor. The NHS is crumbling due to disinvestment and where as once we could have helped doctors and nurses to lighten their loads we just can't anymore. Pharmacy is bust and this government is no different from any other in the last 20 years. They don't get us and I just don't think they care.

Chris Locum, Locum pharmacist

MUR/NMS was a smokescreen agreed to placate us. It was always a policy to decrease numbers. They don't understand what we do and view us as a cost. Slowly, slowly and when it is time for the majority to wake up - too late in the day. Only the biggest organisations will survive (head office offshore to avoid tax) this shake-out and pharmacists stabbing each other financially, will not be assured of any low paying job. There won't be so many of them. Putting up signs saying "Providing NHS services" just lulls the public into a false sense of security until the privatisation process becomes 'in plain sight'. Performing 400 MURs under threat of sanction will not save any pharmacy facing financial difficulty. The new contract was to shake the weak apples off the tree. Super prisons are being built and privatised along USA model for profit. Future pharmacies may even pay to process a script. Winter is coming for community pharmacy and it will change radically with those left standing...

locum norfolk, Locum pharmacist

best point i've read in a very long time... but that my friend has been the game plan all along... if you step back and look at the state of pharmacy in community and then realise what we actually get paid to do.... then you understand why there has been no progression on pharmacy development regarding  future roles... the game has been up a long time and without making dramatic changes it's easier to let it die slowly.... clever really... unfortunately

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