Graham Phillips’s excellent and passionate letter about the future of his Southdown, Harpenden, Hertfordshire pharmacy (
The Pharmaceutical Journal 2016;297:294) illustrates the quandary proprietor pharmacists have.
Before I retired, I had a small chain of pharmacies that were arbitrarily classified as independent but, in fact, were small multiples with few of the advantages (e.g. little economy of scale, less sophisticated IT) compared with our larger multiple colleagues. However, as practising owners we can ensure our pharmacies are customer focused and pharmacy centred rather than system driven.
In Phillips’s case, even from the few facts he has given in his letter, one can deduce that the Southdown pharmacy is probably not contributing much to the balance sheet of his company, although it is undoubtedly an invaluable healthcare facility to his community.
The end of a lease gives the landlord and tenant the opportunity to decide whether to continue with the current tenancy. I am sure he has been considering his options for some months and, as he points out, the funding cuts have weighted the scales in favour of closure. However, if he closes he will gain nothing except perhaps some of the Southdown pharmacy prescriptions transferring to his other Harpenden pharmacy.
In my experience, a true independent — a pharmacist proprietor manager — would be able to improve the viability of a discarded branch of a multiple. There are many newly registered pharmacists waiting for an opportunity to own their own pharmacy, but goodwill prices are often prohibitive.
Perhaps Phillips now has the chance to give such a person a wonderful opportunity and any nominal goodwill funds he achieves would be a bonus to his company.