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Rowlands to cut opening hours in England after COVID-19 paused plans

The planned changes to opening hours will take place from February next year.

Rowlands has resumed plans to reduce opening hours for around 75% of branches in England, reflecting what the NHS is “prepared to fund”, after pausing the proposal due to COVID-19.

Rowlands first announced that it was looking to reduce opening hours in around 75% of its branches in England as a cost-saving measure earlier this year (March 3), a few weeks before the UK went into COVID-19 lockdown

At the time, the multiple said the measure would, if implemented, entail a “reduction of 10 hours per branch each working week” in the three-quarters of its branches in England that open beyond core contractual hours. The additional hours had become “a cost we can no longer sustain”, Rowlands explained.

However, chief executive Mark Bather told C+D on July 27 that he “immediately took the decision not to [reduce opening hours]” when the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

“It would have been the wrong time and the wrong message for us [to close our doors] at that point,” Mr Bather told C+D.

Yesterday (October 5), the company announced that it is now resuming plans to reduce opening hours in England and said this is to “reflect what the NHS has asked contractually [for] us to provide and is prepared to fund”.

The proposed changes to opening hours are expected to come into force in February next year, Rowlands said, adding that the move is part of a “fit-for-the-future strategy for sustainable growth” reflecting “funding constraints” in England.

Pharmacy contract “not fit-for-purpose”

In yesterday’s announcement, Mr Bather said the “current pharmacy contract in England is not fit-for-purpose and does not provide the level of funding that the sector requires”.

For this reason, the company is implementing changes to its opening hours, which will also require “changes to current ways of working”, he added

Rowlands is “discussing with each and every colleague what this could mean for them and their branch,” Mr Bather said.

England should follow Scotland and Wales

Mr Bather criticised the English government for not following in the footsteps of the Scottish and Welsh governments, which he said “are keen to expand and support financially the role of community pharmacy as the third pillar of healthcare access alongside GP surgeries and A&E departments”.

In March, Rowlands said the proposal to reduce pharmacy opening hours would not affect its pharmacies in Scotland and Wales, “where funding arrangements are more robust”.

Mr Bather yesterday called on the English government to “consider investing in community pharmacy” given its “ongoing frontline role in fighting COVID-19 and providing access to essential healthcare advice and services beyond dispensing”.

Have you reduced your pharmacy's opening hours?

Interleukin -2, Community pharmacist

Can a 100hr pharmacy do the same ? Say cut down to 40hrs ? Or 30hrs? 

Leon The Apothecary, Student

This is a bold first step by a multiple. It would surprise me if we see more companies signing up to this strategy now it has been done by one.

Ronald Trump, Pharmaceutical Adviser

Well Pharmacy have been reducing opening hours across their estate too. Especially Saturday hours...I worry about the knock on effect this will have on patients and OOH services trying to obtain medications on evenings and weekends...

Ebers Papyrus, Pharmaceutical Adviser

This is both a wise and responsible move by L Rowland & Co, the effect on patients would be far worse should they lose their estate.

Soon-To-Be Ex-Pharmacist, Superintendent Pharmacist

Wise from the point of view of management and shareholders only I'm afraid. everyone else can just suck it up.

Adam Hall, Community pharmacist

Fundamentally, everyone is a loser in this case - the company cannot sustain what the government doesn't pay for meaning that staff also lose income. And this at a time when politicians blow a lot of hot air about how much good we've done during the pandemic, and wanting to drive money towards pharmacy. GPs shut up shop at the first hint of pandemic, we stayed at work and dealt with the fall-out. The government needs to put its money where its mouth is and support pharmacy by taking money away from overpaid GPs for not delivering services - after all, it's what has been done to pharmacy in the past!

Michael Mustoe, Community pharmacist

Agree wholeheartedly with Adam. Without Community Pharmacy during the pandemic the NHS would have been in dire straits, and our patients and customers would have suffered FAR more
GP's all but disappeared from the scene - unbelievable. How do they get away with such shabby and unprofessional behaviour?
Pharmacy funding and ability to deliver more quality service must be hugely enhanced, to the benefit of 'Health UK'.
Look at the Welsh Choose Pharmacy system and the Minor Ailments scheme in the Highlands of Scotland - use those models and increase their scope. It will lead to a much improved healthcare service which would be truly patient-centred.

Farmer Cyst , Community pharmacist

Unfortunately, and as usual, this will hurt the staff the most. They'll no doubt be expected to process similar levels of prescriptions and carry out the same level of services as before the cuts, but now with 10 less work hours each week, and less overall pay.

cardiff pharmacist, Superintendent Pharmacist

Unfortunately this is what increasing productivity means. I belive there is still a productivity deflator still within our contract ie we are expected to increase productivity every year.

Problem is we have already done this and there are no increases in productivity left..apart from cutting hrs/staff.

Soon-To-Be Ex-Pharmacist, Superintendent Pharmacist

Spot on. Not a good time to be a Rowlands employee (if there ever was one)

Dee dee, Community pharmacist

Turning into a joke of a company. It's a pity as they used to be quite good and logical. Their hub and spoke model is a disaster.

'Yes, we received your prescription from the surgery two days ago but then we send it off which takes another 48 hours'.

'But I've no tablets'.

'You can phone 111 for an emergency supply'.

Now opening hours are going to be reduced by approx 25% after savage staff cuts. I can see customers going elsewhere. The company must be inflating their profits by any means necessary in time for selling the company. 





Leon The Apothecary, Student

Pilpouch has been setback after setback from my experience. Due to have started way back in April last year, they've been beaten to the punch on this one.

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