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Data shows largest multiples close more than fifteen times more often than other owners

Data provided in response to Freedom of Information requests in Scotland shows that the largest pharmacy businesses closed branches for full or part days at more than 15 times the rate of other community pharmacies.

Tue 16th August 2022 The PDA

Data received from NHS Health Boards in Scotland has enabled the PDA to identify the difference in closures rates between types of pharmacy businesses. By comparing the reported closures of those largest community pharmacy chains, the eight members of the Company Chemists Association (CCA) against other pharmacy owners, a significant difference has been highlighted.

Official figures show that during the first five months of 2022 (1 January – 31 May) non-CCA member pharmacies reported 114 occasions across Scotland that they had to close due to unforeseen events.  The PDA fully understands 100% opening in accordance with the commitments given to the NHS are never likely to be achieved in practice as genuinely unforeseen circumstances may occur that cause unexpected closures, such as last-minute sickness, power cuts, extreme weather, etc.  The PDA therefore accepts at face value that the closures reported by these independent pharmacies and smaller chains were necessary and unavoidable.

The PDA also accepts that there are some differences between these types of business.  For example, at an independent, the owner themselves may be a pharmacist and so able to step in as the RP when needed, whereas at a multiple there may be employed pharmacists who aren’t due to work in their own store on the date in question and might cover gaps in the resource plan, and/or a cohort of relief pharmacists, Area Managers and others who are pharmacists and who might cover.

However, the similarities between the businesses are greater than the differences.  All such businesses face the same weather conditions and are impacted by the same external factors, such as the pandemic. All pharmacies operate in the same market, with the same pharmacy contract, same regulations, and recruit staff or engage locums from the same employment markets. If there were a national shortage of pharmacists, it would surely have the same impact on all types of pharmacy owners too.  Therefore overall, the PDA would expect unforeseen circumstances to impact CCA members in similar proportions.

Based on the number of pharmacies owned (53% non-CCA/47% CCA) it would therefore be proportionate if the CCA members had reported closures due to similar levels of genuine reasons on 102 full or part-day occasions during that same five-month period.

However, the data evidences that there were actually 1,625 reported closures of CCA member pharmacies in Scotland over that period.  That means if a patients’ local pharmacy was operated by a CCA member it was more than 15 times as likely to be closed to patients for at least part of the day, than if their local pharmacy owner was a non-CCA member.

It is important to note that while all CCA members are headquartered in England, this data relates to Scotland only and so cannot be blamed on poor funding or previous bad policy decisions provided by NHS England. This information relates only to Scotland’s communities which are covered by the separate contract funded by Scotland’s taxpayers.

The PDA believe that Humza Yousaf, the Scottish Health Secretary needs to take urgent action to prevent unnecessary closures.

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