Lloyds Pharmacy, the second largest community pharmacy chain, now owned by the Aurelius UK investment house, has announced it will close all of its branches located within Sainsbury’s supermarkets, affecting 230 locations across the UK where the public currently access NHS services, and will be closed with just 3-6 months’ notice.
Around 2,000 employees, including 400 pharmacists, face potential redundancy as a result and impacted patients will have to find an alternative pharmacy to receive medicines, advice and other services.
Nigel Swift, the deputy managing director of Phoenix UK, which owns the Numark and Rowlands pharmacy groups, commented to the Guardian : “This announcement is the clearest possible sign of the dire situation facing community pharmacy in England as a result of insufficient government funding. Since the start of the pharmacy contract there has been a massive cut in real-term funding, resulting in hundreds of closures.”
The closure plans follow a series of policy statements from NHS leaders and the government emphasing the key role that community pharmacies have to play in picking up pressure on GP services and improving access to healthcare.
According to a Kings Fund analysis in 2019 there are 11,500 community pharmacies in England delivering services under contract for the NHS. “About 40 per cent were run by pharmacy contractors that operate five or fewer pharmacies (eg, standalone independent pharmacies or small chains) and about 60 per cent were run by contractors operating six or more pharmacies (for example, large corporate pharmacy chains).”
In 2019, Lloyds Pharmacy also became the first private firm to control the pharmacy service to prisons in Scotland.
A letter from NHS National Services Scotland highlights serious concerns at the end of last year after a new computer system was introduced by the company, which negatively impacted working practices.
The letter says:
“The ongoing impact of this poor service is being experienced in several ways, by both NHS Boards & SPS, including:
- Disruption to patient care.
- Additional staff costs due to an increase in hours worked to accommodate processing of late deliveries.
- Impact on [SPS] staff’s physical and mental wellbeing.
- Complaints from patients resulting in additional workload.
- Postponing of scheduled work to process late deliveries.
- Inability of staff to change work patterns/shifts affecting issuing of medicines.
- Inability to receive deliveries of late supplies to prison health centres or needing to alter prison regimes to accommodate.
In addition, we are concerned that the pressures being placed on Lloyds Pharmacy staff working in the hub to provide the contracted service may impact upon their mental and physical health….”
“Our concern is that any further deterioration of the service could lead to the situation where a large number of people in prison do not receive their medicines on the due date, causing a break in treatment. Such an event could have consequences for individual patient’s wellbeing and is likely to cause unrest in the prison population.”
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