Lloyds Pharmacy closes 190 stores, blaming government cuts
Reduced funding, higher business rates and the apprenticeship levy created ‘challenging market conditions’
Lloyds Pharmacy has announced it will close nearly 200 stores across England because of changes in government policy, with its parent company also blaming funding cuts and the apprenticeship levy.
In an internal letter to staff Cormac Tobin, the managing director of Lloyds Pharmacy’s owner, Celesio UK, said around 190 pharmacies would cease to trade through a combination of closures and disinvestments.
The leaked internal memo to staff, which was verified by a spokesman for Celesio UK, said the business had been hit by pharmacy funding cuts, as well as higher business rates and the apprenticeship levy, which had made “market conditions challenging”.
“Community pharmacy needs to adapt to the changing requirements of patients and the NHS, indeed it should be part of the solution to an overstretched health service,” Tobin said in the memo.
“To achieve this, we need a new operational framework that creates a thriving pharmacy network that continues to offer essential integrated healthcare and is rooted in local communities.”
The number of staff who could be affected by the closures was not confirmed by a spokeswoman for Celesio UK, who said current employees may be moved to other locations. But some pharmacists have taken to social media to warn of hundreds of job losses.
Aisha Adnan, a locum pharmacist, posted: “A branch [on] average has five staff and that equates to roughly 1,000 staff being laid off, plus so many pharmacists and locum pharmacists [will] lose their jobs and patients [will] lose their trusted services. This is not the picture of health.”
Thorrun Govind, a pharmacist in north-west England, said: “This is going to impact the most vulnerable patients and, with the GP crisis and pressures on the NHS, the funding cuts were most unwelcome.
“Patients need an accessible healthcare professional to provide advice, medicines and so much more to reduce pressure on other NHS resources. The closure of these pharmacies is disappointing when pharmacists should be supported to provide much more for the NHS.
“I would like to see independent pharmacists prescribers enabled to allow pharmacies on the high street to become triage centres not a reduction in pharmacies.”
Tobin said the company would be taking steps to support staff and minimise disruption for patients.
Julie Cooper, the shadow minister for community care, described the decision as “a devastating blow for Lloyds Pharmacy staff and their patients right across the country. The government is taking hundreds of millions of pounds of support away from pharmacies and now we see that it is patients who will pay the price.”
Cooper urged ministers to outline plans to support “the hundreds of Lloyds Pharmacy jobs that are now at risk” and explain what support will be put in place for patients reliant on their service. “The Tories are prioritising saving money over care. They cannot just expect elderly patients to get their prescriptions via an online service, without any support with their medication,” she said.
A spokeswoman for No 10 said there were measures in place to ensure people could access a pharmacy. She said: “There are almost 12,000 private pharmacies in England and these closures make up just 1.6% of the number. We don’t have full information on the announcement as yet, but we do make sure that patients can access pharmacists where they need to.”