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Boots MD Rejects MP’s Plea to Reconsider Merrow Closure – Urgent Meeting Now Requested

Published on: 10 Nov, 2023
Updated on: 10 Nov, 2023

Boots Pharmacy, Merrow Park – Google Street View

By Martin Giles

The Managing Director of Boots has rejected Guildford MP’s plea for him to reconsider the decision to close their Merrow Branch.

In a response to Angela Richardson, he writes: “I can confirm that we have notified the local store team of the closure of the pharmacy in February.”

But the local MP has responded to say the points the managing director Sebastian James raised were “insufficient” and has invited him to an “urgent onsite meeting”  at the Merrow Park pharmacy “to discuss and understand the impact of the closure so that the decision can be reconsidered.”

In his response to Ms Richardson, Mr James says: “The context is our business update in June where Boots announced that we would be accelerating our store optimisation programme in this financial year, with a particular focus on our pharmacy portfolio…

“The operating environment for community pharmacy is challenging, with significant inflationary pressures and workforce challenges, and Boots has also experienced disruption to supply chains and increased resource and property costs. At the same time, funding for the community pharmacy sector in England has been reduced by 30% in real terms over the past seven years which is not sustainable.

“Following a review of our portfolio in the local area, we have decided to consolidate store operations in Guildford with the closure of the pharmacy on Kingfisher Drive in Merrow Park. Team members affected by this decision have been briefed and will be offered redeployment to other Boots stores…

“We will work closely with the NHS and local GP surgeries in the coming weeks to ensure that patients are fully informed and supported to have their care and prescriptions transferred so there is continuity in access to medicines and the provision of healthcare advice and services.

“We are also considering what operational adjustments are needed at the Epsom Road branch to ensure the pharmacy is equipped to handle the demand and dispensing workload as patients are transferred.

“Please be assured that Boots remains committed to supporting the local community in Merrow and continuing to deliver high standards of service to all our customers and patients in Guildford.”

Angela Richardson’s response to Boots MD

Angela Richardson has responded: “I appreciate that Boots is working with the healthcare sector to get the message out to patients and that the company is considering ways to optimise the Epsom Road branch.

“However, I believe the points you have raised are insufficient and will not reassure residents
that they will be able to access prescriptions quickly and easily.

“As I noted in my previous letter, should the pharmacy in Merrow Park close, the only
remaining pharmacy in the Burpham and Merrow area would be the one at Epsom Road,
which is already facing a significant amount of pressure.

“Given the anxiety that the proposed closure is causing residents who may not be able to order prescriptions online or for whom travelling further is difficult, I would like to invite you to an urgent onsite meeting with me at the Merrow Park pharmacy to discuss and understand the
impact of the closure so that the decision can be reconsidered.

“I believe that this would be a positive opportunity for you to witness the reality of the situation, which is already challenging for pharmacy staff and residents. This would provide a valuable chance to discuss with residents and staff the impact of the decision to close the pharmacy.”

According to Retail Week Boots’ total retail sales grew by 12.5 per cent year on year for the full year ending August 31, 2023, driven by “standout performance from skincare and premium beauty categories”. Skincare sales were up approximately 25% while the premium beauty category saw sales growth of 20% in the quarter.

And, questioning the justification for the closure, a Dragon reader who did not wish to be named has pointed out that a spokesperson is on record saying: “More customers are shopping at Boots more often, with the number of transactions up both in-store and online, with footfall growth ahead of the wider retail market.”

But from the “Glassdoor” website of experiences at former workplaces, among numerous positive comments the following negative comments were made by Boots pharmacy dispensing staff:

  • Long hours, low pay, no safety. 25 Oct 2023
  • Severely understaffed. Not enough resources to do the job properly. Unrealistic targets from management. 20 Sept 2023
  • Understaffed. Busy. Too much delivery Complaints about stock. 17 Sept 2023
  • Expect you to juggle various different roles without pay or thanks. 12 Aug 2023
  • Stressful job and not really much support from higher up. Unrealistic targets they expect you to hit but don’t give you enough staff. 3 Apr 2023
  • The management show no empathy. 16 Jun 2023
  • Understaffed and under-appreciated. Will drag out dispensary course as long as they can sothey don’t need to pay you more. 8 Apr 2023

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Responses to Boots MD Rejects MP’s Plea to Reconsider Merrow Closure – Urgent Meeting Now Requested

  1. Jim Allen Reply

    November 10, 2023 at 8:33 am

    Perhaps the local private chemist group will take it over.

    The closure makes a mockery of SCC traffic reduction plans. As travel distances increase to find chemists journeys length inevitably increases.

  2. David Smith Reply

    November 10, 2023 at 1:40 pm

    Instead of trying to save Merrow Park (which is commendable) the MP should be pressuring Sainsburys in Burpham to re-install another pharmacy there. Back in the day Boots and Sainsburys were in talks to pair up accross the Sainsburys estate but both companies fell out.

    Surely this is the most convenient option for residents?

  3. Sue Hackman Reply

    November 13, 2023 at 8:06 pm

    Burpham is becoming an NHS desert: no surgery; no chemist. A trip to a mega-chemist is not an attractive alternative for the elderly and the immobile, those having to travel with a young family, and sick people who do not have family to do the medicine collection.

    Privatised service is organised around the yielding efficient profits, not around the needs of people. It is the public who fund this service through their taxes. Our politicians need to get a grip on delivery organised around the needs of people.

    Sue Hackman is Guildford Labour’s campaign manager.

  4. Paul Robinson Reply

    November 16, 2023 at 6:29 pm

    I had to collect a prescription from Boots at Kingfisher Drive today and I noted there is a petition form for people to fill in. I think has been set up by the Lib Dems. I would have signed it but all the forms were full.

  5. Tay-Jarl Andessen Reply

    November 17, 2023 at 5:20 pm

    I remember a similar situation where my better half hails from. In her small Karelian hometown [Karelia spans the Russo-Finnish border], the pharmacy was operated by one of their large national chains.

    At some point, despite it being the only pharmacy in the largely rural district, the company decided it was no longer financially viable (as profit comes before people), so they gave notice of closure, with the option of customers having their accounts and records sent on to the nearest alternate branch, in the city around 70km away. Staff could either relocate, if positions were vacant at the city branch, or find employment elsewhere.

    Due to the distance necessary to travel to obtain vital medications, the community banded together and funded the pharmacy to remain open, through donations and community fundraising events, as an independent for one year, in order to allow them to build up resources with a view to continue self-sufficiently. That was 14 years ago, and the pharmacy is still going strong.

    I appreciate the difficult times many of us are in but, if possible, would this be a viable option for Merrow? It would ensure residents don’t have to make potentially large detours in order to access their meds, as well as keep staff in post. Too many local assets are disappearing, with little if any replacement.

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