Briefing: Pharmacy provision in Burpham and Merrow, Guildford

Updated 9 February 2024

Following the closure of two pharmacies in the area north of Guildford, a number of concerns and enquiries have been received by the South East Complaints Hub at NHS Frimley Integrated Care Board (ICB), which manages complaints about primary care (GP practices, community pharmacy, dentistry and optometry) on behalf of ICBs in South East England, including NHS Surrey Heartlands ICB.

We have produced this briefing to explain the position relating to applications for new pharmacies and also to provide an update on the position with Boots Pharmacy, Epsom Road Surrey, GU1 2RE.

Individual complaints about care and treatment are being managed separately, in line with the ICB’s Complaints Policy.

The two pharmacies that have recently closed are:

  • Lloyds in Sainsbury’s, Clay Lane, Guildford, GU4 7JU closed on 22 April 2023
  • Boots Pharmacy, Kingfisher Drive, Merrow Park, Guildford, GU4 7EW closed on 6 January 2024

Pharmacy Market Entry

The requirements and processes relating to entry to the NHS pharmacy market are set out nationally in the NHS Pharmaceutical and local Pharmaceutical Regulations 2013 as amended.

Determining whether there is adequate community pharmacy service provision within an area is a function of each Health and Wellbeing Board (HWB), in this case the Surrey Health and Wellbeing Board.

The Board is responsible for undertaking and publishing a Pharmaceutical Needs Assessment (PNA) every 3 years. The most recently published PNA did not identify any gaps in pharmaceutical services.

However, given the recent pharmacy closures, the HWB will be considering whether to issue supplementary statements to the PNA if gaps in services are identified. Applications for entry to the pharmacy market are made in relation to the Pharmaceutical Needs Assessment (PNA) for the relevant Health and Wellbeing Board area.

An application to open a community pharmacy in the Burpham area was submitted in February 2023, based on benefits that were unforeseen when the PNA was published because of the Lloyds in Sainsbury’s closure. The application was assessed according to the information and evidence provided by the applicant. The three key tests applied by the ICB Pharmaceutical Services Regulations Committee when assessing an unforeseen benefits application are:

  • Whether there is reasonable choice of pharmaceutical services in the area of the Health and Wellbeing Board.
  • Whether there is evidence that there are people who share a protected characteristic who have difficulty accessing pharmaceutical services that meet specific needs.
  • Whether the application is offering innovative approaches to the delivery of pharmaceutical services.

Working through the regulatory tests with the information provided as part of the application, the application was refused.

The applicant was informed of their right of appeal against this decision and was given information on how to appeal.

We understand the applicant has gathered information to support their appeal which has now been submitted to NHS Resolution Primary Care Appeals.

Depending on any additional information and evidence provided as part of the appeal, NHS Resolution may make a different decision. NHS Surrey Heartlands ICB will be asked to make a representation as part of the appeal process and will consider comments that have been received within this representation.

The NHS Resolution Primary Care Appeals Unit is responsible for ensuring the fair resolution of appeals and disputes between those wishing to provide primary care services and the commissioners of primary care services, Integrated Care Boards (ICBs). The process takes up to 15 weeks or up to 25 weeks depending on whether on oral hearing is required.

A second application has recently been submitted for a new pharmacy in the area of Kingfisher Drive, also based on benefits that were unforeseen when the PNA was published. This application is currently being processed in accordance with the regulatory requirements, which includes a period of time for interested parties to comment on the application. This process takes up to four months.

Whether the application is approved or refused by the ICB, there will also be a right of appeal. Therefore, as with the Burpham application, it may take some time to arrive at the final outcome.

Boots Pharmacy, Epsom Road

Immediately following the closure of the Boots Pharmacy on Kingfisher Drive, Boots Pharmacy on Epsom Road struggled with the additional activity.

Boots UK Ltd has been working hard to remedy the situation and their most recent update is as follows:

The company is closely monitoring the store with daily reviews and regular visits. They have implemented plans to improve the service as quickly as possible.

  • Over the past two weekends a dedicated re-set team has been deployed to the pharmacy to clear the backlog.
  • A second pharmacist has been deployed to support with the workload and additional support staff will join the team for the next four weeks.
  • An additional computer terminal has been installed.
  • They are looking at possible changes to the pharmacy layout to increase the dispensary size and provide more storage. This is progressing as a priority.

We understand that the pharmacy team are now managing the workload and that the queues over the last week have been minimal.

The ICB is holding regular meetings with Boots UK Ltd to ensure the above actions improve patient and carer experience and the quality of care that is provided to those who use this pharmacy and to identify any further areas that require attention.