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Rowlands to scrap free home deliveries for all but housebound patients

Rowlands' Kenny Black: We can no longer provide a convenient service which the NHS won't pay for
Rowlands' Kenny Black: We can no longer provide a convenient service which the NHS won't pay for

Rowlands is scrapping its free medicines delivery service for all but “the most vulnerable” housebound patients, it has announced.

The multiple’s new “optimised” free home delivery service “will now focus on improving the support provided to housebound patients” only, it announced today (July 27).

Managing director Kenny Black said: “At a time when community pharmacy is facing unprecedented financial pressures, this means we cannot continue to offer a free home delivery service for all.

“We can no longer provide an expensive convenient service which the NHS is not willing to pay for,” he stressed.

Rowlands – which operates 521 branches across the UK – did not specify when the free deliveries will stop, or if non-housebound patients will be charged to have their medicines delivered to their homes.

“Pharmacies are more than just prescriptions”

“Ensuring housebound patients get the medicines they need is an important part of the care we provide. We have decided to improve the service we offer to those patients, which we know they will welcome as an improvement on current arrangements,” Mr Black said.

“We recognise that [the announcement] will disappoint some patients, but we hope they recognise that our priority has to be supporting the most vulnerable in our communities.

“It also reinforces the message that your local pharmacy is not simply a place to pick up your prescription; rather a place you visit in order to seek support and advice about taking your medication, healthy living and appropriate self-care,” he added.

Rowlands is the second multiple to reduce its free medicines delivery service, after Lloydspharmacy announced last November that it would start charging new customers for deliveries to their homes.

In May, Mr Black told C+D the multiple was considering “reducing its branch network” because of the “draconian” cuts to community pharmacy funding in England. Four Rowlands branches have closed in the wake of the funding cuts, according to C+D’s exclusive investigation into pharmacy closures across England.

In December, a C+D poll of 156 readers found that over a quarter of pharmacies (27%) planned to start charging patients to deliver medicines to their homes, and 42% said they were considering charging for deliveries.

Would you consider scrapping free medicines deliveries in your pharmacy?

Richard Judge, Manager

More business for Pharmacy2U then.

Sue Per, Locum pharmacist

Time to start charging for "MDS" !!

Leon The Apothecary, Student

I hear places like Germany it is standard practice to do so for the enhanced service.

Sue Per, Locum pharmacist

Not in the NHS contract for services, but if they want it free, then they can emigrate to Germany!!, if eligible

Leon The Apothecary, Student

When I read Pharmacies are more than just prescriptions, I do wonder, is that was patients actually see us as though. We could be highly pedantic and state Pharmacies are almost entirely about prescriptions with optional extras on the side that are nice to have.

I'm curious to see where the plans for the NHS lead Pharmacy over the next few years considering the changes they are planning for alternative sectors.

I've noticed they are offering FREE deliveries when you sign up for their online prescription service. Further evidence that this is the direction of travel for pharmacy chains - move to a hub and spoke model then ditch the spoke ASAP.

Concerned Pharmacist, Community pharmacist

Lloyds, Well and now Rolands, all curtailing their deliveries from branches, whilst introducing on-line dispensing with free delivery.

Who do they think they are fooling with statements like "pharmacies are more than just prescriptions"? They would all happily close branches if they can make more profit supplying on-line. They don't care about patient care, it's all about capturing the profit.



Leon The Apothecary, Student

Logistically it makes really good sense in my opinion to centralise. For other reasons? Up for debate.

Tony Schofield, Community pharmacist


It’s a straightforward business decision. They haven’t broken any side of a contract. They have decided to dispense fewer prescriptions but make a profit on them. Housebound patients are their target as they usually need lots of different services. Good luck to them.


Adam Hall, Community pharmacist

The sooner all pharmacies stop doing things for nothing, the better. Patients need to realise they have had a terrific service for no cost to them for years. Maybe this will make them appreciate us a bit more

Leon The Apothecary, Student

I don't think Rowlands will be the last.

Jonny Johal, Pharmacy Area manager/ Operations Manager

Except free delivery was insistently offered as an incentive so the pharmacists can order and dispense for  these customers, to tie them in, I don't think it is fair to unilaterally break one half of a deal. Some multiples I worked for even had a target for collection and delivery - explained to me as the best way to get repeat customers.

C A, Community pharmacist

Just to point out that CCGs  have stopped allowing pharmacies to order in large parts of the country, so would that not count as unilaterally breaking one half of the deal first? It's just taken a while for pharmacy to catch up.

Nalin Shah, Community pharmacist

 Delivery services mushroomed post 100 hour pharmacy

and internet pharmacy. This then became a local competition issue in order to retain scripts.Consequence was a reduction of footfall. and increase in running cost.

There is evidence that patients demanded deliveries foc, though they were more than willing to pay to park for a cappuchino at the latest cafe opening .

The answer is to re--invent the pharmacy as a a cafe with a dispensary attached


Jonny Johal, Pharmacy Area manager/ Operations Manager

Nalin, deliveries were around when I qualified in 1979. Chemists were falling over everybody to get patients to accept deliveries so they can collect and dispense their scripts. My complaints to the RPSGB fell on deaf ears, they refused to act. 

Now, some chains are charging patients for the service which they previously promised to be free. Not very honourable.

As for Rowlands, they are so profit hungry ... which I suspect is the real motivation behind this move. Do they own any wholesalers and if yes, then I would urge readers to visit Companies House, look up all their accounts and treat the whole vertically integrated organisation as one holistic entity to form an opinion? I would urge all their patients to go to another pharmacy, without the free delivery the moral permission for the pharmacy to order, pick-up and dispense should automatically be void.

Edward Shaw, Community pharmacist

Hi Jonny, Rowlands may have promised to deliver for free in the past but it's not wrong to stop this when times are financially challenging. The crisis in Pharmacy funding isn't that bad as my local Pharmacy has 2 delivery vans parked at the back of his branch and it is in England. The main problem with deliveries is people phoning up asking what time are we arriving when the reality is they could easy collect themselves. When a service is free it tends to get abused eventually - think of the medicines returned for incineration...hundreds of millions of pounds gone up in smoke!

In Wales it's a lot better - a national minor ailments service and the familiar green scripts. Next we may even win thw rugby world cup!!

David Fyfe, Senior Management

Rowlands = Phoenix Healthcare

Z Z, Pharmacy Asistant/ Medicine Counter Assistant

This is great news for the sector. Free deliveries for everyone is a disaster. Poundland do not have free home deliveries, pharmacy is the only low value business which offers free delivery which I can think of. Even most of the hustlers on ebay trying to set up their own business charge now. It's been 5-10 years where free delivery in other higher value sectors has gone.

The going rate in the gig economy is 50p per parcel. Given the tiny margins pharmacy makes, this is a joke. If pharmacies were making 3 quid per item plus the difference in drug prices then free delivery might be fair enough. 

Reeyah H, Community pharmacist

Rubbish. Deliveries weren’t around in 1998 so I very much doubt they ‘were around in 1979’. In fact they weren’t even around in 2008 except for the very vulnerable. It was unheard of! All this nonsense started with the multiples and now the multiples are ending it. I just wish the independents would follow suit!!!

Jonny Johal, Pharmacy Area manager/ Operations Manager

Which part of the country have you worked in, Reeyah? I had a delivery driver in Lloyds in Willenhall in the eighties, and I justified that expense because everyone else in the locale were doing it. You can ask the RPS, if they keep the old records of the RPSGB, me and another pharmacist certainly complained to the Inspector about collections and deliveries early on. My experience locally was that an independent started it, first by opening until 7.00pm when everybody else closed at 5.30pm, then they started collecting from surgeries and delivering them, ordering came at a much later date. The multiples in the area then followed.

Yes, I remember the days when all pharmacies closed at 5.30pm sharp.

Ghengis Pharm, Locum pharmacist

Yeah, I remember those days when we shut people out dead on 5.30.  Duh!  We started opening till 7 and takings soared!  Me and my brother.

Leon The Apothecary, Student

I enjoyed the days when we closed for lunch, we'd all go down to the local carvery, choice of duck, lamb or turkey, to which I said "Yes."

Reeyah H, Community pharmacist

Guess what? I worked a lot in Willenhall! 

Jonny Johal, Pharmacy Area manager/ Operations Manager

Then you should learn more about the local history. Don't think you are one of the brothers who bought that independent which started it all, you wouldn't be arguing about this point otherwise.

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