PDA ARE SUPPORTING MEMBERS IMPACTED BY LLOYDSPHARMACY’S DECISION TO CLOSE ALL BRANCHES IN SAINSBURY’S STORES

LloydsPharmacy has announced plans to close all pharmacy branches located in Sainsbury’s before the end of 2023.

Pharmacists, and other employees, working at pharmacies owned and operated by LloydsPharmacy in Sainsbury’s have been told that the group of more than 200 pharmacies will be closed this year as LloydsPharmacy will be ending their relationship with the supermarket chain.

The PDA Union will provide PDA members with information, support and representation in order that they are aware of and can exercise their rights at work in relation to this situation. As the recognised trade union at LloydsPharmacy, PDA officials were given confidential notice before the announcement and are able to continue to represent the interests of pharmacists in discussions with the company.

Mark Pitt, Assistant General Secretary of the PDA Union said, “We have seen many disposals of LloydsPharmacy branches over recent months and we know more may occur, however for every disposal there has been a buyer, therefore patients and communities have seen no reduction in availability, the pharmacy network has not lost capacity and there were no job losses.

‘This situation is different and means significant reductions in access to a pharmacy for patients and we expect those who represent communities to be concerned about the loss of a key part of their local NHS service.

‘Forward-thinking governments around the UK are seeking to make greater use of pharmacies as the most accessible contact point in the NHS, to reduce pressure on other parts of the healthcare system, so there should be greater community pharmacy capacity, not less.’

 

Where are the NHS and GPhC?

Ministers and the NHS in all four UK nations need to be ensuring the availability of pharmacies to the public. With this announcement, LloydsPharmacy has confirmed the closure of 200+ branches, however, the PDA is aware of intensive speculation in pharmacy circles that further closures may follow. The PDA does not act upon rumours and pharmacists’ employment is only directly impacted by actual changes, although morale is undoubtedly impacted by rumours.

Overall, LloydsPharmacy operates around 10% of the UK’s pharmacies, so the impact is well beyond the normal level of day-to-day branch sales or closures, which is an accepted consequence of having private businesses provide the nation’s community pharmacies.

The PDA calls upon those responsible in government to publicly confirm what steps they are taking to ensure pharmacies that may be closed or sold are being adequately staffed, stocked and maintained in the meantime.

The PDA also highlights that as politicians talk about asking community pharmacy to take on more of the NHS workload, the government need to clarify what is being done to ensure the overall sector has the capacity to do so. Capacity lost in supermarkets needs to be gained on the High Street or elsewhere in the community.

Finally, the NHS is also responsible for the funding level of the contract with community pharmacy operators, and in England under the previous Chief Pharmaceutical Officer, it chose to underfund the contract, causing predictable pressure on its viability, which is almost certain to be a factor in any corporation’s decisions to dispose of pharmacies.

 

Support for PDA members

As in the case of any job loss, the PDA Union will be doing all it can for those members impacted by this decision. The PDA knows from experience that in such circumstances there are multiple consequences for employees. The PDA will be providing advice to members at risk of redundancy and ensuring they understand the options available to them. If their employment ends the PDA Union will be expecting them to receive adequate redundancy compensation and fair treatment as they try and seek alternative employment during any notice period.

Others may possibly remain with LloydsPharmacy if suitable alternative roles are available, for example at a nearby store or as a relief pharmacist. Any proposed alternative needs to be suitable for the individual and their circumstances. The PDA will be looking for the appropriate support to ensure individuals can succeed in the new circumstances. In addition, there are consequences for those who are not at risk of redundancy which can also be significant. For example, if patient volume migrates to another pharmacy, then there needs to be enough additional resources, staffing and even physical space in the remaining store to cope with any transferring business.

Mark Pitt continued, ‘The PDA Union will be working tirelessly to avoid job losses for pharmacists, and we will be protecting their interests.  It’s important in these situations that any distress caused to individuals is kept to a minimum and that everyone is treated with respect and dignity.

‘Company briefings should provide further information about the decision and formal processes, such as redundancy consultations will follow.  Those pharmacists who are PDA members can contact our service centre for advice in due course and in the meantime should ensure they read communications from the PDA.’

Specific jobs become redundant when the needs of the business for employees to carry out work of a particular kind in the place where they are employed ceases or diminishes. Therefore, if a company no longer need a pharmacist at a location at which a member’s employment was located due to a decision to close the in-store pharmacy, that person is subject to potential redundancy.

Though a specific role may be redundant, this does not automatically mean the individual ceases their employment if suitable alternative employment can be found, for example, if there is already a suitable vacancy for a pharmacist role within a reasonable distance of that person’s home.

However, a pharmacy closure could lead to the end of someone’s employment if there are no suitable alternatives available with the employer.

Although other aspects of the PDA’s union recognition at LloydsPharmacy, such as pay negotiations can benefit all pharmacists in the bargaining unit (store/relief-based pharmacists) whether they are union members or not, the more tailored support provided for individuals facing the risk of redundancy is for members only.