A decision by Hallo Healthcare to close more than two hundreds pharmacies has consequences not just for patients, communities but for the entire sector, the Pharmacists Defence’ Association (PDA) told Pharmacy Business.
The closure of 237 LloydsPharmacy stores means ‘over 1 per cent of the entire UK community pharmacy branch network has been removed at once’, said Paul Day, Director, PDA Union.
On Monday (12 June), a spokesperson from LloydsPharmacy confirmed to Pharmacy Business that ‘any of its remaining branches in Sainsbury’ will be closed by Tuesday (13 June).
Although LloydsPharmacy has been committed throughout the process of closure to helping patients easily find a suitable alternative provision, the move has impacted nearby pharmacies.
Day said: “The patients that previously utilised the branches in Sainsbury’s, still exist. Hence, from the perspective of those who work within community pharmacies that workload will now be redistributed and already busy teams in some geographies may be asking where the extra resources and physical space required will be coming from for them to safely and effectively add that work to their existing volumes.”
There have already been hundreds of other permanent pharmacy closures and operating hour reductions implemented by other major chains over recent years.
Therefore, the association has urged those in the NHS across the UK nations, that are responsible for ensuring that pharmaceutical needs are met, need to ensure that communities are being adequately served.
Impact on employees
Day explained: “For the individual pharmacists and their team members at LloydsPharmacy, unless they have secured an alternative role at Lloyds Pharmacy by filling an existing vacancy they will soon be leaving.”
“Once any reasonable “close down” tasks in the closing branch are completed they may either be temporarily helping at a nearby LloydsPharmacy if there is one and that is reasonable, or be at home on what is known as “garden leave”, until their notice period expires.
The length of any contractual notice period will vary depending on an individual’s length of service and it is technically only at the end of their final day of their notice that an employee is “redundant”.”
The Trade Union side of the PDA supports members to understand and exercise their rights at work and this includes resolving any dispute about what is a reasonable alternative compared to a person’s existing role and/or activities.
He added: “For the population that were previously employed by Sainsbury’s and whose employment has continued in their role the PDA is also supporting their dispute with the company as to which redundancy terms they should be paid (the Sainsbury’s terms being enhanced beyond the statutory minimum redundancy that LloydsPharmacy currently say is all they will pay).”
With regards to how PDA is supporting its members who were employed at LloydsPharmacy’s Sainbury’s branches, Day said: “Things are moving fast at Lloyds, with many branch sales. We’ve about 1,000 members at Lloyds, but of course if their branch is sold or closed they are no longer Lloyds’ employees. We are ensuing those individuals can talk with us to understand and exercise their rights at work. So we’ve sent them some information and also many have contacted our support centre with specific queries. Each individual’s case may be different.”
Community Pharmacy England, Chief Executive Janet Morrison, said that these closures are ‘deeply worrying’ and one of the clearest signals yet of just how much community pharmacies are struggling to make ends meet.
“Pharmacies are being chronically underfunded, with funding for community pharmacies being cut by 30% over the past seven years in real terms: combined with escalating costs, this has led to more extreme pressures on pharmacies than ever before. We know that many are at breaking point and this needs to be remedied immediately to protect access to pharmacy services.
When any pharmacy closes the impact on patients and local communities can be devastating. Other pharmacies locally will be braced for even more pressures as they try to cope with the increased demand and extra patients – but in their current fragile state, some pharmacies may simply not be able to cope with this. Other local health services may also see an increase in demand for help. We urgently need a funding uplift for pharmacies before it is too late for even more patients.”