Pharmacies are increasingly changing ownership with a recent report from law firm Hugh James, identifying that 1,294 pharmacies were taken over by a new owner during 2015/16. This shows an increase in the rate at which community pharmacies are consolidating into multiples. But even among multiples, individual branches will sometimes change ownership.
We’ve recently learned that Cohen Chemists have purchased eight branches from Lloyds Pharmacy as they divest excess branches following the purchase of the Sainsbury’s pharmacy business. We also understand that another nine former Lloyds Pharmacy branches have been purchased by Sutton Chase.
While it may be an increasingly common occurrence for these changes to happen, it can still be a worrying time for those affected who may discover, sometimes with no meaningful prior warning, that their employer will change. It can mean changes to management or working arrangements and an abrupt end to long standing working relationship with colleagues that remain in roles with the previous owner. There may be changes or uncertainty about employment contracts.
Employees have some legal protection when the employer changes in these circumstances, but often individual pharmacists will not know what their rights are, or how to challenge management action.
This is where the PDAU come in. As an independent trade union, we exist to help our members and have helped members with similar situations in the past. Our team understand the implications for pharmacy and have experts in employment law so we can help with every aspect of such a change.
PDAU members are not only affected as employees, but as Responsible Pharmacists, with the statutory duty to secure the safe and effective running of the pharmacy, they must also ensure that practice meets regulatory standards and patient safety is not compromised while maintaining service and adjusting to any changes to procedures, staffing or practices.
We’d hope for any changes to be well managed by the new owners and for you to be properly consulted, informed and involved as a Pharmacy professional, however if there are concerns you must raise the issue, preferably in writing, with a senior governance pharmacist or the Superintendent Pharmacist to make them aware of your concerns. If you believe that your concerns are not being addressed satisfactorily by the company or patient safety remains at risk, the PDAU should be contacted for advice.
If you are working in a Pharmacy which is subject to a change of ownership please do let us know of any issues or concerns you have and if you know a Pharmacist colleague who is not yet a member of the PDAU, please recommend they join us today.