A Bolton community pharmacy has closed after almost a century of trade and, according to the branch’s superintendent pharmacist, government cuts to the community pharmacy budget are responsible.
Lees Pharmacy, on Bennetts Lane in Bolton, Greater Manchester, closed its doors on 29 February 2020 after 95 years as a working pharmacy.
Chimin Patel, superintendent pharmacist at Sykes Chemist, which owned the branch, said it was “very sad, as we have never closed a pharmacy before — but over the last 18 months, funding cuts have meant that it’s no longer viable”.
“Sykes Chemist is fully engaged in the delivery of commissioned services in Bolton, but we cannot provide services at the level we want to with this funding. And we can’t afford to pay staff wages from the funding we get.”
Patel added that, in his 44 years as a pharmacist, “I have never come across such a challenging climate”.
“We are all struggling. There was flat funding in the new contract. I’m not sure what will happen after five years,” he said.
Patel suggested that the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) should allow contractors to vote on whether to accept negotiated funding contracts.
“We were never given a right to vote on it, which is unfair: it is our livelihood. No impact [assessment] on the workforce has been done,” he said.
The five-year community pharmacy contractual framework (CPCF), which came into effect in October 2019, includes a total of £13bn over the five years between 2019/2020 and 2023/2024 at a flat rate of £2.59bn each year. Under the contract, pharmacies would be paid less for dispensing medicines but would deliver a wider range of clinical services.
No staff have been made redundant as a result of the branch closure, Patel said — they will be moved to work for one of the other 17 pharmacies owned by Sykes Chemist.
Patel offered his thanks to “all our customers at Lees Pharmacy for supporting us for so long”, and said he hoped they would “continue using our sister branches”.
Simon Dukes, chief executive of the PSNC, said that during negotiations on the CPCF the PSNC had “warned government and the NHS that it was imperative that community pharmacy’s costs — particularly labour, business rates and inflation — needed to be taken into account in the new contractual framework. They refused to do so, believing instead that there were efficiencies to be gained within the sector which would counterbalance the rising cost base.
“Accepting the CPCF was a difficult decision for PSNC. Ultimately, we agreed it to prevent further cuts and provide us with a platform on which to build a business case for further investment,” he said.
“We do not have details of this individual case, but stories about pharmacies closing are very concerning and yet more proof that the efficiencies the government is looking for are simply not there. In this case, yet again, it is patients who will bear the cost, losing access to their local community healthcare provider.
“Through the CPCF annual review process and ongoing dialogue with government we are seeking urgent investment in the sector to prevent more random closures like this from happening.”