The PDA will be supporting members affected by the announcement made by Rowlands Pharmacy about yet another so-called “transformation programme” by a pharmacy multiple, which pharmacists will recognise as “cuts”.
Rowlands management team announced on 5 October 2020 that they intend to make changes to store opening hours, cut contracted hours of work and implement other changes to employee contracts including further reductions to their retail structure and head office support in England. This is the latest major closure announcement from a pharmacy multiple in the community sector following significant cuts to government funding for community pharmacy over recent years and sadly it may not be the last.
The PDA is already supporting pharmacists affected by earlier announcements of closures by Boots and Lloyds over previous months. Closures of stores mean reduced access to healthcare for the public and have consequences for the employment of PDA members and their team colleagues.
The PDA’s immediate concerns are about the livelihoods and wellbeing of members who may find themselves in one of the affected Rowlands pharmacies. Many employees will have statutory protections regarding their contracts, job security and/or redundancy entitlement; however, PDA urges any affected members to contact them so that they can provide advice on each pharmacists’ individual position. The PDA team includes experts in employment law so can help with many aspects of such a change.
These changes will not only impact on those who may leave or have their hours reduced. The consequences of cuts mean fewer pharmacists to safely cope with the workload and places greater pressure on those who continue to work. Pharmacists will also be aware of the financial situation of their employers and will recognise if a message of cuts to essential staff is not balanced with a similar impact on the shareholder dividend. The PDA urges employers to invest in adequate staffing and other resources for the long-term benefit of all.
However, alongside this, the PDA acknowledge the pandemic has had a negative impact on the retail aspect of many community pharmacies, and feel there is an underlying issue of the government attitude towards community pharmacy, particularly in ENGLAND and it is notable that this announcement is only talking about ENGLAND.
Community pharmacy must be properly funded; should expert health professionals disappear from the high street, the health of the nation will suffer and a trusted source of specialist health advice will be lost. Politicians and the public need to wake up to the current threat to this most accessible part of the NHS. Community pharmacy has never been more in the frontline of public health than during lockdown, as other parts of the NHS have closed to patients during lockdown.
The PDA, as the trade union for pharmacists, will be supporting members at Rowlands with appropriate help to protect their legal and contractual rights as the impacts on individuals become clear. The PDA will work appropriately with the company to find agreed solutions with their members whenever possible.
In addition, addressing the wider situation, the PDA will also be further increasing their activity in raising the issue of underfunding for the community pharmacy sector and emphasising to decision-makers the impact on patients and their care.
Mark Pitt, Director of Defence Services at the PDA, said “Our members at Rowlands will be understandably concerned about this announcement. We are already hearing from those who expect to be directly affected and others who have worries about their pharmacy. Once more details are known, we will be able to help individuals with any specific concerns.
Pharmacists can be reassured that the PDA will help members protect their employment rights and ensure they are treated fairly. Members should contact us for advice if they are impacted by these proposed changes.”