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

Councillor Kevin Small: I thank NHSE&I for allowing us to keep our pharmacy
Councillor Kevin Small: I thank NHSE&I for allowing us to keep our pharmacy

Rowlands’ proposal to merge two of its branches in Swindon, south-west England, has been rejected by NHSE&I, following a campaign led by the local council.

The multiple originally intended to shut the branch located on 167 Rodbourne Road, Swindon, and direct customers to another pharmacy “788 metres away” on Park Lane.

However, plans for the proposed merge were halted last month (June) following protests from the local council.

Residents feared that the lack of parking space and bus stops close to the Park Lane branch would have made it less accessible to elderly patients and customers with reduced mobility, according to Kevin Small, councillor for Central Swindon North Parish Council, who helped lead a campaign to keep the Rodbourne Road pharmacy open.

“Rodbourne is a unique community that has a good local shopping area and the closure of the pharmacy would have had a detrimental effect on the shopping facilities available to Rodbourne residents,” Mr Small told C+D.

“We are also a community that has a large number of older residents who need a local chemist and value the facility based in Rodbourne Road,” he added.

Proposal “not welcomed”

“Hundreds” of people signed a petition to keep the pharmacy open, Mr Small said, while Healthwatch Swindon said it had also received complaints about the proposal, “with clear reasoning and reflecting the views of local residents”.

Jo Osorio, development officer at Swindon Healthwatch, told C+D: “It was clear from representations we received directly and those posted on social media that the proposal was not welcomed.

“There are 788 metres between the two Rowlands premises. Access for pedestrians, in particular those with mobility challenges and people pushing buggies, is extremely limited,” she added.

After seeking feedback from health bodies and considering “12 unsolicited responses” that opposed Rowlands’ proposal to “consolidate” the two pharmacies, NHS England and NHS Improvement (NHSE&I) turned down the multiple’s application, as it would create a gap in the provision of pharmaceutical services in the area.

Mr Small said he was “over the moon when I heard we won”.

“I thank NHSE&I from the bottom of my heart for supporting Rodbourne and allowing us to keep our pharmacy,” he added.

Rowlands “continually reviewing network”

When asked about the reasons behind its merger plans, a spokesperson for Rowlands said: “Due to government pharmacy funding restrictions, we are continually reviewing our network of branches across England and consolidating where possible, in order to provide more patient services, which is what the government pharmacy contract now requires.”

While the Rodbourne branch was under review, “Rowlands is committed to providing communities with the best pharmaceutical care service possible”, the spokesperson stressed.

“Rowlands worked closely with all parties involved to ensure the future care needs of the local and surrounding communities were carefully considered, which resulted in no merger.”

Have any pharmacies in your area closed recently?

Adam Hall, Community pharmacist

I presume Rowlands were looking to merge these branches as a way to save money because one, or both, were loss makers and there was only enough business to support one. That being the case, does this mean the Parish Council will support Rowlands by way of a grant? After all, they can spend up to £8.12 per elector and at 36500 electors (approx) - looks like Rowlands could be quids in!

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