Bestway, the new owners of The Co-operative Pharmacy, has announced a £200m investment plan that includes the creation of hundreds of new jobs and a target of 220 more premises in the next three years.
The new pharmacies will aim to be in or near to existing GP premises; currently 30% of all Co-operative pharmacies are located in GP branches.
The company revealed its business plans for the former Co-operative Pharmacy Group on 10 February 2015 as it announced that it was rebranding the Co-operative pharmacies as “Well”.
It also intends to expand the former Co-operative’s pharmacy wholesale business — taking advantage of the existing Bestway wholesale expertise — by targeting new customers from the independent pharmacy market. Pharmacy services for care homes will also be developed.
Bestway plans to shrink the retail offering in its pharmacy stores and use that extra space to expand health services such as a minor ailments and injuries service. It expects the pharmacy business revenue to grow from £750m to £1bn by 2018.
There are no plans to bring pharmacy into the company’s national network of Best-one and Xtra Local convenience stores.
“The retail proposition in the pharmacies will have to change and refocus on health services and health promotion, which means there may be a reduction in space for other categories,” says John Nuttall, Well’s chief executive officer and former managing director of The Co-operative Pharmacy.
Patients will notice a difference to the former Co-operative sites as pharmacies push health promotion messages and health services, says the chief executive.
Nuttall is keen to develop a pharmacy-led minor ailments service to take some of the pressure off hospital accident and emergency (A&E) departments.
“I can’t see why any customer would want to wait four hours to be seen in A&E when they could walk into a pharmacy and be seen straight away,” he says.
“You have to ask why isn’t that message getting across to NHS policymakers? We have a number of representative bodies who have a mandate to develop a future contract and frankly they need to do more – we need to see more progress.”
The company has also promised the former Co-operative employees at its 780 pharmacies that there will be no redundancies. Bestway intends to keep the pharmacy business separate from its other commercial interests, says Nuttall.
Bestway, which has business interests in wholesale cash and carry, cement and banking, bought the Co-operative Pharmacy Group, the third largest pharmacy chain in the UK, for £620m in October 2014.
The Co-operative buyout was Bestway’s first foray into the pharmacy sector.