While the multiple is doing “all it can” to address the financial impact of the cuts, “the reality is that the commercial viability of community pharmacy is being hit on a number of fronts”, Kenny Black told C+D.
C+D understands Rowlands – the UK’s fourth-largest pharmacy chain, with more than 500 branches and 4,800 employees – is looking at which of its branches are financially unviable, and considering merging those located close to each other.
A Rowlands spokesperson told C+D the multiple does not have a target number of branches it plans to close or merge.
Read C+D's analysis of how the four largest multiples are coping with the funding cuts here.
Mr Black told C+D: “We are doing all we can to address the draconian cuts we have seen to community pharmacy funding, including reducing our cost base, identifying new revenue opportunities, and where appropriate reducing our branch network.
“Ministers say there are too many pharmacies, and yet when we propose to merge branches without reducing patient access it is a very long and expensive process,” he added.
In April 2017, Rowlands announced it was looking at “alternative ways” of operating in response to the funding cuts in England, and warned “if we do not look at our cost levels, we may be forced to close pharmacies”.
It moved the “labour-intensive” preparation of medicine trays from branches to a central location, and began to “re-look at the staff levels in branches”.
The following month, Rowlands employees told C+D that accuracy checking technicians were being “reprofiled” as part of its cost-cutting measures, which the company refused to comment on at the time.