LloydsPharmacy will withdraw pharmacy services from Sainsbury’s supermarkets this year, in a move that will affect hundreds of outlets.
In a statement issued on 19 January 2023, the pharmacy multiple said that it had undertaken a “strategic review of its operations in response to changing market conditions” and that pharmacy services will be withdrawn from all Sainsbury’s stores over the course of 2023.
It is unclear whether the outlets will be sold or simply closed, but Lloyds said it was “currently exploring options for each individual branch” and that the “timeline and final plans will vary on a branch-by-branch basis”.
The statement added: “[LloydsPharmacy] is working with all colleagues potentially affected by the changes and has underlined its commitment to support them through the process. LloydsPharmacy is also committed to helping patients easily find a suitable alternative provision.”
A total of 281 Sainsbury’s pharmacies officially became LloydsPharmacy branches on 1 September 2016 as part of a £125m takeover deal agreed in July 2015. There are now 237 branches listed on the LloydsPharmacy website.
Kevin Birch, chief executive of LloydsPharmacy, said that the decision had “not been an easy one”.
“We understand that our patients and customers may have questions about how the change will affect them. We would like to thank them for their continued support and assure them that we are committed to providing a smooth transition over the coming months. I am very grateful to all our colleagues for their dedication to our patients, customers and communities.”
Janet Morrison, chief executive of the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee, described the move as “an extremely worrying development”.
“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 that the closures would put other local pharmacies under “even more pressure” to cope with increased demand.
In 2017, LloydsPharmacy announced plans to close 190 stores in England because they were no longer considered “commercially viable”.
An analysis of the community pharmacy market in Britain published by The Pharmaceutical Journal in May 2022 found that LloydsPharmacy had seen the largest net fall in pharmacies among the multiples. However, its online business had grown, with a more than eightfold increase in revenue during the 2020/2021 financial year.
Leyla Hannbeck, chief executive of the Association of Independent Multiple Pharmacies, said the move showed “the huge financial burden the pharmacy sector is under”.
On 19 January 2023, she asked on Twitter: “If big organisations like Lloyds are struggling to make pharmacies pay, where does that leave the rest of us?”
Malcolm Harrison, chief executive of the Company Chemists Association, said: “Policymakers cannot escape the fact that the funding model for community pharmacy is broken. 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.”