Celesio will close around 190 LloydsPharmacy stores across England, it has announced.

The decision was made due to the Government’s cuts to English community pharmacy funding and an increase in ‘retrospective clawbacks’, resulting in the closures of pharmacies and divestments, Celesio said today (26 October).

Cormac Tobin, Celesio UK managing director, said: ‘Changes to government policy on reimbursement and retrospective clawbacks over the past two years have gradually made operations at many LloydsPharmacy stores commercially unviable.

‘We will be doing all that we can to support our affected colleagues and minimise disruption for patients.’

In its closing process, Celesio UK looked at other community pharmacy provision, in the targeted areas, to minimise the impact on patients as much as possible.

Celesio UK owns more than 1,500 community pharmacies, which employ around 17,000 employees.

The company has pledged to ‘support a smooth transition to new contractors’ and ‘ensure an interrupted service for its customers’.

‘Grave impact’

In reaction to the news, Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) chief executive Sue Sharpe urged pharmacy minister Steve Brine to ‘take urgent action’ to rethink community pharmacy funding structures.

She said: 'Community pharmacy is facing severe financial pressures following the imposition of funding cuts last year and margin reductions in the summer.

‘In these circumstances, large businesses such as LloydsPharmacy can undertake comprehensive analyses of their pharmacies’ viability. This decision to make large scale closures indicates the very grave impact that the imposed funding cuts are having now.

‘PSNC has been warning of the very real threat to pharmacy services and met the Minister, Steve Brine, on Monday 23 October.

‘We highlighted to him the severity of the funding position and the precarious position which many pharmacies find themselves in; and we discussed the need to understand and protect the vital services to patients that community pharmacies provide.

‘We hope this news will persuade the Minister of the need to take urgent action to restructure funding and services.'

Need to adapt

Mr Tobin mentioned the current financial pressures as an opportunity to fully integrate technology in the sector, in order to transform the company and meet patients’ and communities’ needs.

He said: ‘We recognise pharmacy needs to adapt to changing societal trends and take advantage of the opportunities digitalisation offers patients.

‘To achieve this we need a new operational framework that meets the future needs of patients by creating a thriving pharmacy network that continues to offer essential integrated healthcare that is rooted in local communities’.

Community pharmacies play a vital role in primary care, which is currently being undermined by the Government’s policies, when they are ‘part of the solution to increasing capacity in other parts of the NHS’, he said.

‘We look forward to working with the Department of Health (DH) and NHS England in the future to ensure that we can shape a new framework which allows us to invest, innovate and continually improve our service to patients,’ said Mr Tobin.