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LloydsPharmacy confirms exit from the high street

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The chain has closed four stores and sold all remaining branches in England

Lloyds Pharmacy, which was the second-largest community pharmacy chain in the country until March, has confirmed its departure from the community pharmacy market.

Hallo Healthcare Group, which owns the pharmaceutical chain, has announced that it has successfully sold all of its high street and community pharmacies.

The group released a statement on 23 November, stating that 99 per cent of the Lloyds Pharmacy branches it had previously operated would remain open under different ownership.

But they said they will remain “fully committed to the UK healthcare sector,” and their brand name “remains in specialist pharmacy, clinical and digital healthcare.”

Community Pharmacy England (CPE) has also revealed that all Lloyds pharmacies are now sold and four stores have closed.

In a statement, CPE chief executive, Janet Morrison said: “The decision by Lloydspharmacy to exit the community pharmacy market, coming as it does alongside other headlines about branch closures, record losses and pharmacy sales, reflect the brutal reality in community pharmacies as financial and operational pressures continue to take their toll.”

The government and the NHS should be concerned as “their near decade-long policy to squeeze community pharmacies financially is now pushing all community pharmacy businesses to the brink,” she added.

Janet believes that the £645m recovery plan funding announced last week will bring some relief to some businesses, but she said “it is not a panacea for all the issues” the sector faces.

“Increased and sustained support and investment are also desperately needed and we will continue to press the Government and the NHS to deliver this,” she added.

Lloyds Pharmacy was running 1,338 pharmacies in March 2022, which came down to 138 pharmacies in October 2023, as per General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) data.

In June 2023, the pharmaceutical chain announced its plan to shut down all of its branches inside Sainsbury’s.

“It is very concerning that the owner of such a large organisation has chosen to exit the community pharmacy market,” commented Malcolm Harrison, Chief Executive of the Company Chemists’ Association (CCA).

There has been a net loss of more than 1,000 pharmacies (299 pharmacies in this calendar year alone) since core funding has been cut in real terms by 30 per cent in 2015, he pointed out.

Harrison continued: “Choosing not to properly fund pharmacies to supply NHS medicines is a false economy. Pharmacies currently supply over £1bn NHS medicines each year to patients. Access to medicines and other critical primary care services will continue to deteriorate as more and more pharmacies close.”

The recently announced new money will be spent on the delivery of new care services and it will not address the “underlying fragility” in the market, he added.

Not only this, PDA Director, Paul Day shared his opinion on the closure of the final Lloyds branches, saying: “This final announcement has been long anticipated as divestments have reduced the size of the network continuously for many months, however, it may still feel shocking to many people who have worked for LloydsPharmacy and others who have seen it as a key part of the community pharmacy sector. The exit of the second biggest chain is a significant change.

Day confirmed that the fact that “new community pharmacy businesses are being purchased by new owners” clearly demonstrates pharmacy is still an “attractive” business.

“The PDA has worked with the company throughout the programme to avoid job losses and it should be noted that while the number of LloydsPharmacy branches has reduced, the other side of those transactions means that over 1,000 community pharmacy branches have been purchased by new owners, clearly demonstrating that operating a pharmacy can still be an attractive business proposition,” Day added.

“Pharmacies remaining open, albeit under new ownership, maintain the vital access to a pharmacy for patients and the wider community.”

The announcement, however, hasn’t come as a shock to Pharmacists’ Defence Association (PDA) director Paul Day, as he said that it has been long anticipated as “divestments have reduced the size of the network continuously for many months.”

“The PDA has worked with the company throughout the programme to avoid job losses and it should be noted that while the number of LloydsPharmacy branches has reduced, the other side of those transactions means that over 1,000 community pharmacy branches have been purchased by new owners, clearly demonstrating that operating a pharmacy can still be an attractive business proposition.

“Pharmacies remaining open, albeit under new ownership, maintains the vital access to a pharmacy for patients and the wider community,” he added.

 

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