Around 75% of Rowlands branches in England are open beyond core contractual hours, which usually equate to 40 hours a week, and “that is a cost we can no longer sustain”, the multiple said in a statement yesterday (March 2).
Under this proposal, Rowlands anticipates a “reduction of 10 hours per branch each working week”. These changes are currently being discussed with pharmacy branch teams, it added.
“We believe the impact on customers will be minimal and we will ensure they are informed well in advance, before opening hours change,” the multiple said.
A final decision is expected by the end of the month, it added.
Rowlands said this proposal is a “direct consequence of the funding austerity facing [English] community pharmacy”.
“Government funding for community pharmacy in England has been capped over the next five years, which in real terms, taking account of rising costs and inflation, means a reduction in funding,” the multiple said.
It urged the government to invest in community pharmacy in England, following its pledge to allocate £33.9 billion for the NHS in England by 2023/24.
Rowlands also said the government should “reverse” the decline within the sector, “which has seen hundreds of pharmacies close at a time when GP surgeries and A&E departments are struggling to cope with demand”.
The proposal to reduce pharmacy opening hours does not affect Rowlands’ pharmacies in Scotland and Wales, “where funding arrangements are more robust”, the multiple added.
In February 2019, Rowlands announced it had put 70 of its branches up for sale but a few months later, in July, it withdrew 12 of those branches from the market as it deemed them to be “more valuable” as part of its “exciting transformation plans”.
Rowlands managing director Mark Bather told C+D last year that the multiple would not close the 58 pharmacies it had put up for sale if it did not find a buyer.