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Merged Co-op group announces store cuts

The Co-operative Pharmacy has announced that it is closing 14 branches in England and Wales and putting another 12 up for sale, blaming cuts in government reimbursement for medicines.

Some 119 jobs — 65 of them part-time — are threatened but the company has promised to find alternative employment internally where possible.

The company, which has 800 branches across the UK is the single biggest pharmacy chain in Wales.

Managing director John Nuttall said the closures and sales were the results of the Government’s decision to take £400m away from community pharmacy following changes to reimbursement for category M medicines.

He said: “Despite the transitional money made available by the Government to meet some of the shortfall [in funding], it has had an impact in 2008 on our profits.

“Those stores which were on the margins have been pushed further into the red and we have regrettably taken the decision to close them.”
Mr Nuttall was unable to say whether other companies were also feeling the impact of the category M reimbursement decision in the same way.

In a statement the company said: “The Co-operative Pharmacy is currently operating in the challenging financial climate. In common with all operators profits have been adversely affected by the impact of cuts in Government funding for pharmacy. With this is mind, we have reviewed the performance of all our branches to ensure that as a business we continue to operate in the most efficient way possible.”

The closure date of the 14 loss-making branches has yet to be decided but the company has already started to consult staff about their future. The 12 branches up for sale will be closed by April next year if no buyers are found.

The closures come 18 months after the company was created by merging the community pharmacy businesses of Co-operative Group and the United Co-operatives in July 2007.

Mr Nuttall said that the decision to close some branches had nothing to do with the merger or the impact of the current credit crunch. He was also confident that no further closures or sales would follow.

Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal URI: 10043793

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