LloydsPharmacy’s decision to close all 237 of its remaining Sainsbury’s supermarket outlets reflects a major transformation now underway in community pharmacy funding, says a leading health testing expert.
Dr Quinton Fivelman PhD, Chief Scientific Officer at London Medical Laboratory, said, ‘Our vital local community pharmacies are facing a cash crisis. Since the start of the Government’s pharmacy contract, there’s been a real-world collapse in funding for local pharmacists. LloydsPharmacy is now withdrawing from all Sainsbury’s stores “in response to changing market conditions”.
‘In 2015, LloydsPharmacy purchased Sainsbury’s in-store chain of (then) 277 outlets and has already closed a significant number. Since 2015, however, the pharmacy market has transformed and some supermarket outlets may be too small and wrongly designed to allow for vital new services.
‘Typically, local pharmacies in England generate almost 90% of their income from their NHS contracts and the remaining 10% from counter sales of non-prescription medicines and other items, from reading glasses to perfumes. The profit margins on such sales are increasingly thin.
‘That’s why pharmacies are now moving beyond traditional prescription services and embracing the move towards personal fitness and wellbeing. Here in the UK, the health and wellness industry is worth £19.5bn and is growing at a rate of 10% annually.
‘For example, there has been a significant rise in patient awareness regarding self-testing. Millennials have become the “wellness generation”. Together with an increasing number of elderly people, they are requesting better access to testing. Local pharmacy services are being transformed.
‘However, in an era when people want to take charge of their own health, for example by using blood tests to monitor their fitness, crowded superstore outlets are perhaps not ideal. The Government is also empowering pharmacists to both diagnose and prescribe medications in certain situations as local health services are shaken up.
‘A busy superstore environment may not be the best place for sensitive consultations with pharmacists or conducting blood tests. Often, there may only be one small consultation booth. Yet, blood tests are likely to be at the heart of pharmacy reforms. New tests can diagnose conditions from diabetes to thyroid problems to specific allergies. Such tests can be performed by qualified pharmacy phlebotomists and are also available as off-the-shelf finger-prick blood tests.
‘Not only can these tests form the basis of treatment, but they can also prevent problems before they become a serious health issue.
‘Today, companies such as London Medical Laboratory (the UK’s largest phlebotomy network and leading omni-channel blood testing, diagnostic and health check business) are constantly introducing new tests to give people a comprehensive picture of their health. We provide phlebotomy training to all our partner pharmacy sites across the UK, which will number over 100 by the end of the year.
‘Our new generation, off-the-shelf, home blood tests are highly accurate, quick and simple to carry out. They take only around five minutes, with results emailed the next day.’