Why out-of-hours pharmacies are a dying breed

! This post hasn't been updated in over a year. A lot can change in a year including my opinion and the amount of naughty words I use. There's a good chance that there's something in what's written below that someone will find objectionable. That's fine, if I tried to please everybody all of the time then I'd be a Lib Dem (remember them?) and I'm certainly not one of those. The point is, I'm not the kind of person to try and alter history in case I said something in the past that someone can use against me in the future but just remember that the person I was then isn't the person I am now nor the person I'll be in a year's time.

A Twitter friend re-tweeted a request for information about local pharmacies open on a Sunday evening.  Easy I thought, I’ll pop on t’interweb and get the out of hours pharmacy rota off one of the 5 million websites the NHS runs.

Erm no.  NHS Direct has nothing but a list of pharmacies with normal opening hours and the two local NHS websites that had an out-of-hours pharmacy rota only had rotas up to Easter this year.  With all these admin staff the English NHS employs, you’d think one of them would be able to keep an out-of-hours pharmacy list up-to-date.

But while I was going through the list of pharmacies on the Shropshire NHS website the real reason why there are no pharmacies open on a Sunday evening dawned on me and for once it’s not about NHS funding.  It’s Alistair Darling’s fault.  “How is the Chancellor of the Exchequer to blame for pharmacies not opening on a Sunday evening?” I hear you cry.  Well, it’s quite simple …

A couple of years back Alistair Darling was the Minister for Trade & Industry (an English department of course, he is an MP for a Scottish constituency after all) and was approached by the major supermarkets asking for a repeal of Sunday trading laws in England.  He declined despite there being no Sunday trading laws in Scotland where he was elected.  So what has that got to do with pharmacies?  Take a look at a list of pharmacies in your local area and see how many different names there are on the list.  I doubt there will be more than 9 or 10 in a medium sized town.  Boots, Lloyds, Superdrug, Tesco, Asda … all big chains and all banned from opening for more than 6 hours on a Sunday.  Because they have the buying power they are pricing independent pharmacies out of business and because they are cash rich they can buy up the independent pharmacies they are putting out of business.

If NHS services are going to be farmed off to the private sector then Sunday trading laws need to be repealed because people need access to medical services 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

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  1. Merk (4 comments) says:

    There are two small Lloyds chemists in Wellington (one next to the medical centre) I’m pretty sure they’re not banned from opening late, there are also quite a few independent ones round here that could open if they wish. They just don’t seem to.

  2. Merk (4 comments) says:

    BTW I’m all for abolishing Sunday trading laws, it’s daft – I wonder if it’s still to do with pressure from Lambeth Palace.

  3. wonkotsane (1133 comments) says:

    If they’re owned by Lloyds they won’t be allowed to open. If they’re independent they will.

    I find it very strange that we still have Sunday trading laws in England but not in Scotland when Scotland is by far the more religious country.

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