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‘No question’ of redundancies for 520 Rowlands staff at 70 branches

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Kenny Black: All 522 staff have been informed and will be kept updated

There is “no question” of redundancies for the 522 staff at the 70 Rowlands pharmacies up for sale, its managing director has told C+D.

Rowlands announced yesterday (February 21) that it has put 70 of its pharmacies on the market – 69 in England and one in Wales – to focus on a “slightly smaller pharmacy network”.

The multiple’s managing director Kenny Black told C+D exclusively that it has “no intentions of closing down any of these pharmacies”.

“We intend to sell every pharmacy that has been identified and are aware that this may take some time,” Mr Black said.

All 522 staff “have been informed and we will keep them updated on a regular process”.

“We will support them through this process and where possible, look to transfer them to another Rowlands branch on completion of the sale or TUPE them across to the new buyer,” Mr Black said.

As Rowlands only announced the 70 pharmacies yesterday, it is not yet aware of any offers, he told C+D.

No plans to close

Explaining the decision to put these branches up for sale, Mr Black said: “Community pharmacy in England has faced an unprecedented financial squeeze over the last year, which will continue in 2019.

“At the same time, prescription volumes have increased and the NHS wants us to provide more patient services, while making our dispensing processes more cost-efficient,” he added. “It is therefore clear to us that going forward we need to invest more in fewer branches.”

The 70 pharmacies were selected for sale “on a matrix of parameters”, including “geographical location”, “evolution index of the area the pharmacy is located” in and the “nature of the lease tenures we have for the premises”, Mr Black explained.

PSNC: A symptom of a difficult financial situation

Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) chief executive Simon Dukes said Rowlands’ “decision to reduce the size of its pharmacy network…may be a symptom of the very difficult financial situation that so many community pharmacies currently find themselves in”.

“In this environment, our advice to anybody considering purchasing a new pharmacy is to seek specialist professional financial advice first,” Mr Dukes added.

“Like all pharmacy businesses, potential buyers should be thinking carefully about what changes their pharmacies are likely to need to make to fit into and remain profitable in the future models for the sector.”

13 Comments
Question: 
Do you work at one of the affected pharmacies?

John Ellis, Community pharmacist

Do remember, the practice payment will completely disappear in 2020, and I'm pretty sure Rowlands know this. These pharmacies may become completely unprofitable by the end of the year. If you are interested in buying, hold off until all the current cuts have been implemented, you may be able to negotiate a better price.

Leon The Apothecary, Student

So they made lose their jobs after the transfers have occurred, my understanding is that anyone under two years can have their contract terminated without any particular reason without recourse. My advice if anyone does end up losing their jobs during this time, make your voice heard, and we can hold those who said otherwise accountable.

Jack Daniels, Community pharmacist

We have been assured that our jobs and working conditions will be transferred over to the new employer and we will be protected under TUPE " so there is nothing to worry about " . However many of us are naturally concerned and reading some of the blogs on here makes me more anxious. Redundancy is currently not an option so it looks like a journey into the unknown!

Joan Richardson, Locum pharmacist

TUPE transfer does not prevent redundancies - a new owner can cut staff or reduce their hours as long as it can be shown to be "necessary for the business".  I've seen it done!

Graham Turner, Non Pharmacist Branch Manager

The problem with TUPE is that it makes staff feel as if they are protected via legislation - nothing could be further from the truth. There are ways to wangle around it. A good employer (i.e. a small independent), would hopefully give the staff the respect that they deserve, and so there should be no need to rely on TUPE. Hoewever, history has shown that this is not the case, with large chains wading in and looking to make huge savings at the expense of the staff in the branch, and ultimately, the patients in the local community. I've seen it first-hand.

I've been an employee under TUPE twice in my career, both times it was a  complete and utter shambles, and I ended up finding employment elsewhere. Hopefully if you work as part of a very efficient and successful team, the new owners will recognise this and retain your services, but if history shows us anything in these cases, it's that you may not be happy working for the new employer and can find better emplyment elsewhere.

Benie I, Locum pharmacist

Some people might find it very hard to believe a single word they're saying.

GAYNOR WYNNE, Dispenser Manager/ Dispensing Assistant

So much for what Mr Black has said We will support them through this process and where possible, look to transfer them to another Rowlands branch on completion of the sale or TUPE them across to the new buyer,” The way they treat there staff is  appalling they have known still last October that they were putting shop up for sale. So much for help & support  the staff at the shops that are being sold were told by a S**t email that was sent to the shops yesterday morning. They didn’t have  decency to speak to the staff in person  or on the telephone. And a day later we have still heard again from anybody to tell us we’re we stand. 

Graham Turner, Non Pharmacist Branch Manager

Sounds much like when Lloyds took over Sainsburys pharmacy. The staff were told that TUPE would protect them. I don't think any of the old Sainsburys pharmacies near me have any of the original staff from prior to the takeover - I think that says it all really. I hope things work out better for Rowlands staff, at least they've got a good chance of being bought by a smaller chain or independent, and not another massive conglomerate which syphons all the money off-shore to dodge tax, despite the fact that they are more than capable of paying their way.

RS Pharmacist, Primary care pharmacist

Is this an opportunity or a pitfall for a potential independent buyer?

Dodo pharmacist, Community pharmacist

Some of these pharmacies are paying extremely high rents and business rates and are in my opinion just not profitable.

Graham Turner, Non Pharmacist Branch Manager

That's why they are for sale. Staffing costs are also high, and your income is only goign to go in one direction as cutbacks and clawbacks take effect. The big chains are not stupid - they will have analysed all their branches and decided to sell ones which either are just not profitable, ones which constantly have problems giving the company a headache, or ones which they predict will not be profitable in the future for whatever reason. When it comes to money, they are pin-sharp, it's just a shame that customer service and staff appreciation do not appear on their list of priorities.

Good companies do not just offload a money-making asset for less than 50% of turnover - there is a reason that they don't want them. That doesn't mean that a progressive, forward thinking pharmacist couldn't make the branch profitable, but it would take a very dedicated and determined person to do so in the face of such adversity within the industry.

Turning a branch around doesn't happen overnight, it would take a few years to build up a reputation for great service within the community, and someone with deep pockets could weather that storm. Good luck to them I say, the more community pharmacies which actually treat their staff and customers like real human beings, the better all round. It would be even harder if the branch previously had a reputation for poor service and long waiting times, which the local residents have known about for years or decades - you'd have to provide a consistently amazing service to tempt people back from whatever phamacy they defected to when the chain was in charge.

However, I hope some newly qualified pharmacist doesn't beg, borrow or steal every penny they can lay their hands on to buy one of these branches thinking that it will set them up for life - it will almost certainly not, very few people will have the business acumen and stamina to turn one of these branches around.

Personally, I wouldn't touch one of these branches with a bargepole. With less money than it takes to buy a pharmacy, you could invest in income stocks, bonds and funds, and get a very decent return without having to deal with the day to day hassles of running a pharmacy, not to mention one which may have had a reputation for poor service prior to you purchasing it.

You could use your money to buy a fish and chip shop, and employ a manager. I guarantee that you would be able to earn a living without any of the outrageous stress associated with running a pharmacy. Where I live a cod and chips is £8, but people are happy to pay for it. People do not want to spend £8 in a pharmacy!

Just because you invested so much time in a pharmacy degree, don't feel as if you MUST go into the industry - there are loads of better options with less stress and a lot more profit. Yes, you might need to think outside the box, but you will be very glad that you weren't one of the zombies coming out of University and blundering into probably the worst profession in the UK.

Emmanuella Okeke, Primary care pharmacist

Well said! I couldn’t agree more with your post and yes I would much rather put my money together and buy a fish and chip shop than a pharmacy!!!! 

Depressed Pharmacist, Manager

great post

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