Celesio UK has announced that 190 of its LloydsPharmacy stores in England will close or be sold off because they are no longer considered “commercially viable”.
The company has nearly 1,900 stores across the UK with almost 25,000 employees.
Cormac Tobin, managing director, Celesio UK, said: “Changes to government policy on reimbursement and retrospective clawbacks over the past two years have gradually made operations at many LloydsPharmacy stores commercially unviable. We will be doing all that we can to support our affected colleagues and minimise disruption for patients.”
As part of the process of identifying pharmacies for closure, the business looked at other community pharmacy provision in the area, with a view to mitigating the impact on patients as much as possible, the company said in a statement.
Where stores are sold off, Celesio UK pledged a smooth transition to new contractors to ensure an uninterrupted service for customers.
Tobin said Celesio UK firmly believed that community pharmacy “is part of the solution to increasing capacity in other parts of the NHS” but recognised that “pharmacy needs to adapt to changing societal trends and take advantage of the opportunities digitalisation offers patients”.
He added: “To achieve this we need a new operational framework that meets the future needs of patients by creating a thriving pharmacy network that continues to offer essential integrated healthcare that is rooted in local communities.
“Although this is a difficult day for some of our colleagues, this also presents an opportunity for us to set ourselves up for the future and build our reputation as a trusted partner of the NHS. This is the beginning of a transformation for our business that will combine the accessibility of our physical pharmacies and their teams, the customer convenience of digital channels and harness the skills of our people to provide a broader range of healthcare in people’s homes, communities or wherever they need it.”
Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) chief executive Sue Sharpe said large businesses such as LloydsPharmacy were undertaking comprehensive analyses of their pharmacies’ viability in the wake of severe financial pressures on the community pharmacy sector following the imposition of funding cuts last year and margin reductions in the summer.
“This decision to make large-scale closures indicates the very grave impact that the imposed funding cuts are having now,” she said.
PSNC has warned of the very real threat to pharmacy services since last year’s decision to implement cuts to pharmacy funding and the committee met with pharmacy minister, Steve Brine, on Monday 23 October.
“We highlighted to him the severity of the funding position and the precarious position which many pharmacies find themselves in; and we discussed the need to understand and protect the vital services to patients that community pharmacies provide,” Sharpe said. “We hope this news will persuade the minister of the need to take urgent action to restructure funding and services.”