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‘Boots closing 200 branches shows it has had to bite the bullet too’

"It is the patients and staff of these pharmacies who are often forgotten about in these headlines"

Some Boots closures will cut a lifeline for vulnerable patients, while others won't have much impact, predicts the Multiple Manager

The announcement that Boots plans to close around 200 of its stores will come as no surprise in the current climate. With prescription item fees at such low levels, pharmacies of all shapes and sizes are struggling to survive the squeeze. But when the funding cuts were announced late in 2015, Boots believed that it was well placed to weather out the storm. Chief pharmacist Marc Donovan said the sector should use it as a "kick up the backside".

What Boots didn’t expect was the resilience of the independent sector. While numerous pharmacies closed their doors for the last time across the country, the vast majority have battened down the hatches, tightened the purse strings and kept themselves afloat. With smaller profits still spread across roughly the same size market, the breaking point finally came when Lloydspharmacy announced store closures two years after purchasing Sainsbury’s pharmacies.

Boots has now had to bite the bullet too. With 8% of its pharmacies closing, it’s not exactly a drop in the ocean.

These closures, while numerous, may not have a massive effect on the presence of Boots pharmacies across the UK. I’ve seen in many towns and cities, as I’m sure you have, two or more Boots branches on the same street. Considering they often compete against one another, I doubt that its market share will suffer too much. The closures will also no doubt make business sense. I have come across quite a few of the pharmacies due to close, where I questioned how they were making a profit at all. The answer, it appears, is that they weren’t.

However, for every duplicate pharmacy closing, there are others whose closure will be a blow to local communities. In my area, one store is closing where there is no other pharmacy for over two miles. As GP practices continue to merge, the pharmacy had lost its small practice next door, so struggled to get the walk-in business it needed to stay profitable. This pharmacy had provided a vital lifeline for elderly and vulnerable patients. Speaking to the pharmacist in charge, they painted a troublesome picture, struggling to find nearby pharmacies willing to dispense blister packs and deliver them to these patients.

It is the patients and staff of these pharmacies who are often forgotten about in these headlines. Local people who may have spent most of their working lives serving their communities admirably, only to find that the job they no doubt thought would always be secure would now be moving elsewhere. The story I have found is one where staff are more concerned for their patients than their future employment. Their care in the face of adversity is a credit to them and our profession as a whole, but it won’t bring their jobs back.

Times are tough and decisions must be made, but when the initial 6% cut in funding was announced, GP surgeries actually received a large increase in their funding. The decision by Boots to see funding cuts as a "kick up the backside" may have been seen as good business sense at the time, but the factional nature that still remains in community pharmacy hurts the profession as a whole.

The Multiple Manager works in a Northern Irish branch of a major pharmacy chain

5 Comments

Chris Locum, Locum pharmacist

Well, they did insist on providing a service for free and then selling the company for lack of profitability. It altered the course fundamentally for paid services in community pharmacy.

Kevin Western, Community pharmacist

Perhaps if Boots didnt want the whole Pharmacy pie at the expense of everyone else, and used its influence in a positive way for Pharmacy instead of for Boots we would all (including Boots) be better off rather than being crucified by the DoH because they know no one can refuse their derisory, insulting offers while Boots will  take it whatever the cost and pick up the pieces afterwards.

chickens and roost spring to mind.  The rest of us are suffering because of their greed and dismissive attitude to Pharmacy as a profession so sympathy is a tad limited where the company are concened,though the staff affected deserve all our thoughts.

 

Ranjeev Patel, Non Pharmacist Branch Manager

I feel terrible about the pharmacy staff, I have met some really genuine, hard working people who seem to know all the customers on a first name basis. It is people like these who work for buttons who are actually creating the profits for these huge companies, yet they are the first ones out the door when something goes wrong. I think most pharmacy staff know full well that no matter how hard they work now, it is only a matter of time before they get the boot, I would urge anyone who values themselves to start looking for a new job before your pharmacy gets closed down also.

A.S. Singh, Community pharmacist

This is capitalism at it's finest. Make the minions do the work to reap rewards for the shareholders. Very American - let's hope pharmacy does not move that way.

ABC DEF, Primary care pharmacist

I ain't even worried because the whole NHS is moving precisely in that direction. Wait till no deal brexit kicks in at Halloween and we gonna kiss goodbye to the NHS and say hello to americanised healthcare which you simply cannot afford to be ill.

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