Does Boots the Chemist have a vendetta against Liverpool?

Boots has a reputation of being a friendly beneficent UK company. It isn’t because years ago it was removed from the FTSE 100 and is largely owned by American financiers. All over the Country they are closing High Street branches rather than look at ways of doing prevention work for the NHS.

Tomorrow I am attending a meeting to try and prevent the so-called merger of twp branches of Boots the Chemists on Allerton Road and Smithdown Place. Boots have already closed down an Alliance pharmacy on Allerton Road, (a subsidiary of Boots; a pharmacy in Marybone and a request has come in to merge two Boots branches in Walton Vale.

The President of the Company I am writing to is an Honourable, which means he is the son of a Lord and is also a friend of David Cameron and was educated at Eton so I have no great hopes that he will want to help the needy and not the greedy.

However what Boots are doing is failing to work with the Tory Government on the prevention agenda which the Government and indeed all political Parties support. Put simply Chemists shops could be doing far more work with the Government and Councils to ensure that low level screening services and innoulations take place in the High Street and thus reduce pressure on GPs and A and E services.

I’ll Let you know what happens to morrow and any response that get from Boots to my very rrasonable suggestion.

Here’s my letter. I hope it speaks for itself:

Hon Sebastian James,

President,

Boots the Chemist,

Beeston,

Nottingham NG2 3AA

27th January 2020

Dear Hon Simon James,

Closure of Pharmacies in Liverpool

Tomorrow I will be attending a meeting to try and prevent you doing a so-called merger of two Boots Pharmacies in Allerton Road, Liverpool 18. You haver already closed an Alliance pharmacy in the area, a pharmacy in Marybone and, I have just been informed, that you hope also to merge two pharmacies in the Walton Vale area of Liverpool.

I say so-called because it is clear there is a pretence of merging two branches because, in that way, you can, as you well know, limit the competition along Allerton Road. It is obvious to me that Boots the Chemist operates not to help the needy but to help the greedy.

I appreciate that the High Street has changed for every type of retailer but Pharmacies have the opportunity to be much, much more than this. You will have seen the recent advice that pharmacies could and should do much more upstream with a range of minor ailments and tests to relieve the pressure on GP practices. This could and should be vital work and it coincides with the opinions of your good friend David Cameron who spoke, during his Prime Ministry, of the need to relieve pressures in this sort of way.

Boots are the biggest supplier of pharmaceutical services in the UK. I believe that if you wanted to do it you could help bring the NHS into line with the Government’s ‘prevention agenda’ and move those services into the High Street. That would send out an important message not only about the riole of pharmacies but also about the fact that Boots do, indeed, want to assist the needy.

On that basis I believe that you should call of any so-called mergers or closures and enter into a full discussion with Councils and the NHS about how Boots could really help with the health and care needs of the communities of England and then the rest of the UK.

I look forward to hearing from you that you agree to this very reasonable request.

Yours sincerely,

Cllr Richard Kemp CBE,

Leader, Liverpool Liberal Democrats

Lib Dem Spokesperson on Health, Local Government Association of England

My Letter to Jeremy Hunt Secretary of State for Health

Rt Hon Jeremy Hunt MP,

Secretary of State for Health,

39, Victoria Street,

London SW1H

30th January 2020

Dear Secretary of State,

The national position on Pharmacies

I am writing to you both as a ward councillor in Liverpool and Deputy Chair of the Community Well Being Board at the Local Government Association. I am doing so to describe a problem in my which I know has a resonance nationally.

The immediate cause for concern is the consolidation of two Boots the Chemist outlets on Allerton Road near the world-famous Penny Lane.

Allerton Road is a district centre wholly based in my ward but which has one of the heaviest bus interchanges on Merseyside. It therefore serves not just the 15,000 people in my ward but as a shopping area for about 45,000 people.

A Boots subsidiary, Alliance has already closed a branch last year and this will mean that an area which serves 45,000 people will have two pharmacies.

I met on Monday with our Director of Public Health and the Pharmaceutical Manager for the North West about this and I suspect that our Director of Public Health will be formally objecting to this. There are, however, structural problems that will cause problems for NHS and ourselves in dealing with this.

The decision will be taken against criteria established in our Pharmaceutical Needs Assessment (PNA) which we are about to renew and regulations about assessing mergers, closures and new openings more than 10 years old. The PNA is a statutory responsibility for the local authority, as set out under the National Health Service (Pharmaceutical Services and Local Pharmaceutical Services) Regulations 2013.  The PNA is a health needs assessment which is specifically considers the extent to which existing pharmacy services help to meet the health needs of the population, identify any gaps in required provision, any services provided that do not meet a need, and any ways in which services could be improved.

It is quite clear that the regulations were established before:

  • The Prevention Green Paper which you published last Summer;
  • The NHS long-term plan which emphasises upstream work through pharmacies to relieve pressure on GPs and other front-line health services.
  • The introduction of Primary Care Networks which are supposed to look at all front-line services; and
  • Your own speeches on the moves to put more spending into prevention rather than cure.

Maintaining community pharmacies is crucial to keeping older and frail people independent. They need to be at the heart of communities, close to where people shop, work and go about their daily lives.

For many elderly people, their local pharmacist is not just a dispenser of medicines, but someone who they know and look to for informal health advice and information. Vulnerable and elderly people should never be forced to travel potentially long distances to pick up vital medicines and receive health advice.

Community pharmacies are also vital to ensure diverse and vibrant high streets, which can otherwise be dominated by betting shops, fast food outlets and payday lenders.

Community pharmacies do need to modernise but recent cuts in funding have led to many being forced to close. They should actually play a bigger role in providing public health services, alongside their important existing roles of supplying medicines. Additional investment in community pharmacies could improve the prevention of disease and access to health services. They can also help contribute to thriving high streets.

Being at the heart of communities means pharmacies see people in every state of health and are ideally placed to play a central role in the prevention of illness, which can reduce costs and pressures on the NHS and adult social care.

So, we have the situation where the NHS is preparing plans which over a five year period will push more services into pharmacies but in parallel,  pharmacies are closing which leave the NHS unable to present its own policies because the pharmacies have already closed.

In Liverpool one Boots has already gone. Another application has come in to close one in the North of the City. I was also informed that Boots intend to close another 200 pharmacies in the near future which is why this is a national problem.

As someone who believes in coherent and joined up policy making, I think that your current outdated policies are going to prevent your up to date and new policies.

I believe that the obvious thing to do in the short-term is to declare a moratorium on closures and amalgamations until the NHS can actually decide how it sees the role of community pharmacies which are and must be a vital part of our front-line prevention system.

I know you are meeting Cllr Ian Hudspeth on 12th February and hope that you will be able to discuss this with him.

Yours sincerely,

Cllr Richard Kemp CBE,

Leader, Liverpool Liberal Democrats

Lib Dem Spokesperson on Health, Local Government Association of England

About richardkemp

Leader of the Liberal Democrats in Liverpool. Deputy Chair and Lib Dem Spokesperson on the LGA Community Wellbeing Board. Married to the lovely Cllr Erica Kemp CBE with three children and four grandchildren.
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3 Responses to Does Boots the Chemist have a vendetta against Liverpool?

  1. Nonconformistradical says:

    Richard – given that Boots is now US-owned should you really be surprised if their focus is firmly on profitability possibly/probably at the expense of any concept of service to the community?

  2. nigel hunter says:

    I get fed up of ‘Free Trade’. To me it implies any British company is ripe to be bought by anybody who wants it. Then asset stripping ‘profitability’ takes over. Not jobs and a concern for others.

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