Community pharmacy owners Ashley and Nikki Cohen have bought The Priory Pharmacy, part of The Priory Medical Centre, a nine-site GP practice and Primary Care Network (PCN) in York.

The couple set up Pharm-Assist in 2006 and employ more than 60 staff, with pharmacies in Leeds and NHS and private contracts to provide pharmaceutical support to care homes, hospices and a young offenders institute.

They also partnered with Matalan to give 85,000 Covid vaccinations this year through a pop-up vaccination sites across 3 stores in Leeds, as well as 2 other vaccination clinics in across Leeds and York.

They have now bought out the GP partners of The Priory Pharmacy, making them the sole owners of the pharmacy business.

Mr Cohen said: ‘Our GP partners decided to sell their pharmacy shares but when I approached my previous bank about buying The Priory Pharmacy they put the figures through credit control and the computer said “no”.’

He was eventually able to get a refinancing loan from Unity Trust Bank, which describes itself as ‘a bank that is committed to supporting frontline healthcare operators’ and said that Pharm-Assist ‘provides an impressive package of services in local communities which help some of the most vulnerable members of society and reduce the pressure on GP practices’.

Mr Cohen said that when the GP partners approached him about selling the pharmacy, ‘it just made me realise I've been involved in that pharmacy, both as a director and as a shareholder for about 12 years. I felt that I knew everything about the pharmacy. And although that I didn't own all of the shares, I felt I knew the business.’

He said that he 'just felt it made a lot of sense’ to bring the pharmacy under his sole ownership.

He added that the purchase has enabled him to share efficiencies across his business, such as automatic robotics and transportation of supplies.

Mr Cohen’s business is around 70% reliant on dispensing prescriptions and around 30% of the group’s income comes from contracts with other services such as prisons and care homes, as well as the successful Covid vaccination programme.

He said that the purchase had allowed him to expand this into York as well his existing business in Leeds. ‘I've got the skills and I’ve got the staff so I'm moving staff around our group a little bit better to try and bring other work into the pharmacy and be less reliant on core NHS income as it were,’ he said.

Mr Cohen added: ‘I’m a qualified pharmacist but I’ve always been business minded.

‘After working in the NHS and commercial healthcare sector I wanted to create a pharmaceutical company that provided something different.

‘Pharm-Assist has become a bit of hub and as well as supplying medication, our staff carry out clinical work for clients and provide training, advice and support.’