Rowlands Pharmacy will reduce its network by over 10% from 510 to 440 branches, it announced yesterday.

The downsize will see the sale of 69 branches in England and one in Wales as the multiple invests ‘significantly’ in technology in response to the NHS’s growing focus on locally-based preventative care.

New automated central dispensing models will enable pharmacy teams to provide the same high levels of service in a more efficient way, Rowlands Pharmacy said in a statement.

Managing director of Rowlands Pharmacy Kenny Black said: ‘We are committed to investing in the future and changing our dispensing processes in order to deliver sustainable, profitable growth for the business, enable colleagues to spend more time with patients and reinforce the role of Rowlands pharmacies as local health care hubs.

‘As a result, we need to focus our investment on a slightly smaller Rowlands pharmacy network than we have today’.


'Transformative changes'


Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) chief executive Simon Dukes said ‘transformative changes’ are needed for community pharmacies to offer more clinical and patient-focused services in line with the NHS and Government vision.

This would include changes to working practices and a shift away from a focus on dispensing volumes towards efficiencies, automation and technology that free up contractors’ time, Mr Dukes said.

He added: ‘Given the urgent need for these significant changes in practice, which must be supported by a multi-year funding settlement, it is no surprise that some of the larger pharmacy businesses are already reviewing their networks carefully.

‘Rowlands Pharmacy’s decision to reduce the size of its network almost certainly reflects these upcoming changes, and it may also be a symptom of the very difficult financial situation that so many community pharmacies currently find themselves in.’

He warned that there will not be more funding ‘for doing the same things that we have always done’ and cautioned anyone considering purchasing a new pharmacy to seek specialist financial advice first.

He said:‘Like all pharmacy businesses, potential buyers should be thinking carefully about what changes their pharmacies are likely to need to make to fit into and remain profitable in the future models for the sector.'

Specialist business property adviser Christie & Co will market the pharmacies for sale.