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LloydsPharmacy withdrawal clear sign sector is struggling


LloydsPharmacy withdrawal clear sign sector is struggling

By Neil Trainis

The PSNC chief executive Janet Morrison has warned LloydsPharmacy’s decision to withdraw its branches from all Sainsbury’s stores is “one of the clearest signals yet” that community pharmacies are “struggling to make ends meet.”

Once again calling on the government to “urgently” give the sector fresh funding, Ms Morrison (pictured) said increasing cost pressures were continuing to weigh heavily on pharmacies and insisted “many are at breaking point.”

She said the latest development at LloydsPharmacy underlined the impact of the government’s failure to support community pharmacy with funding.

“Community pharmacies have had their funding cut by some 30 per cent over the past seven years and are facing more extreme pressures than ever before,” she said.

“This significant shrinkage by the second largest pharmacy chain is an extremely worrying development and one of the clearest signals yet of just how much all community pharmacies are struggling to make ends meet. We know that many are at breaking point.”

She warned the withdrawal of LloydsPharmacy from Sainsbury’s will heap even more pressure on small, cash-strapped pharmacies as patients look for other ways to get access to medicines and healthcare services.

“We understand that LloydsPharmacy will be in touch directly with affected staff and patients at this difficult time. As these pharmacies close, other pharmacies locally will be braced for even more pressures as they try to cope with increased demand,” she said, warning permanent pharmacy closures are “likely” without investment.

“The community pharmacy network is the answer to so many of the health service’s problems, but right now many are struggling to keep going.  The sharp decline in their funding combined with workforce and other pressures is making it increasingly difficult to sustain services and impossible to do more.”

Company Chemists’ Association chief executive Malcolm Harrison said the announcement by LloydsPharmacy will be a “concern to staff, patients, the public and the community pharmacy sector alike.”

“Policymakers cannot escape the fact that the funding model for community pharmacy is broken,” he said.

“As we and other pharmacy bodies have warned recently, we are at an indisputable fork in the road for the NHS. At a time when general practice and the NHS is struggling with ever-increasing demand, allowing the community pharmacy network to wither and decline will make no sense to patients and the public. Again, we call on the Government to act.

“If new and recurrent funding is not forthcoming, it is very likely that the rate of permanent closures will increase with far-reaching impacts on the capacity and resilience of the pharmacy network.”

Phoenix UK’s deputy managing director Nigel Swift said it was “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 resulting in hundreds of closures,” he said. “This has to be a wake-up call for Government. At a time when the NHS is in crisis, the community pharmacy network is needed more than ever before.”

The Pharmacists’ Defence Association, which secured trade union recognition at LloydsPharmacy last year, said it would work “tirelessly” with pharmacists affected by the announcement to try and avoid job losses.

PDA Union assistant general secretary Mark Pitt said: “We have seen many disposals of LloydsPharmacy branches over recent months and we know more may occur. However, for every disposal there has been a buyer, therefore patients and communities have seen no reduction in availability, the pharmacy network has not lost capacity and there were no job losses.

“This situation is different and means significant reductions in access to a pharmacy for patients and we expect those who represent communities to be concerned about the loss of a key part of their local NHS service.  

“Forward-thinking governments around the UK are seeking to make greater use of pharmacies as the most accessible contact point in the NHS, to reduce pressure on other parts of the healthcare system, so there should be greater community pharmacy capacity, not less.”

The chief executive of the Association of Independent Multiple Pharmacies Leyla Hannbeck said the news demonstrated "the huge financial burden the pharmacy sector is under" and added "if big organisations like Lloyds are struggling to make pharmacies pay, where does that leave the rest of us?"




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