Pharmacies could be forced to close

By Juliette MaxamPHARMACIES could be forced out of business if the Government goes ahead with proposals to scrap rules restricting the number and location of chemists.

By Juliette Maxam

PHARMACIES could be forced out of business if the Government goes ahead with proposals to scrap rules restricting the number and location of chemists.

Strict rules and regulations currently limit where new pharmacies can open, but the Office of Fair Trading has recommended the business should be deregulated to offer greater competition and lower prices for consumers.

But pharmacists working in independent chemists in East Anglia have warned deregulation could lead to supermarkets opening more in-store pharmacies, forcing them out of business.

Iain Tallentire, pharmacy manager at Crouch End Pharmacy, in Crouch Street, Colchester, said pharmacies had a profit of 85p to 90p for each dispensed item, which would be squeezed if supermarkets opened more in-store pharmacies.

Supermarkets would like to open more pharmacies because they get more customers into their stores - and they could run them as loss-leaders.

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“It would take time, but there would be some reduction of independent pharmacies in this area,” said Mr Tallentire.

“It would make profit margins narrower and narrower. I don't know how many would go, but there would certainly be an impact.

“What the Government is going to achieve is greater choice for a short period of time, then no choice.”

Mr Tallentire felt supermarket pharmacies would not be able to offer the same service as independents, which are also on a rota to provide for out-of-hours dispensing.

“What they're going to be interested in is rapid dispensing of stuff in boxes - common stock items they can turn over quickly,” he said.

Ramanlal Patel, owns Mile End Pharmacy, in Nayland Road, Colchester, where he has been a pharmacist for 30 years.

“I don't think any other organisations would be capable of offering the type of services which we offer,” he said.

“This case that allowing more supermarket pharmacies is for the benefit of the public - I find it very dubious. I don't think there's going to be any benefit.”

Mr Patel added financial pressures would force him to close his shop and become a locum pharmacist if the Government went ahead with its proposal.

George Maynard, who runs a long-established independent pharmacy in Broad Street, Eye, said full liberalisation of the licensing regulations could affect community businesses such as his own.

“At the moment any liberalisation would suffer from a shortage of pharmacists,” he added.

Essex Pharmaceutical Association has organised petitions, which have been signed by thousands of customers at pharmacies across the county

Colchester MP Bob Russell has already received a petition signed by 400 people from one pharmacy in the town and West Chelmsford MP Simon Burns is due to get a petition signed by 1,000 of his constituents today.

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