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The university pharmacy is caught in the middle of a struggle over its location, with its owners unable to make a compromise with university management on terms.
In an attempt to provide a better service to students, the university has offered the pharmacy the opportunity to move to a more central location on campus, where the current LUVU office is situated. However, the pharmacy declined, preferring to remain isolated at the far end of north campus in Bailrigg House.
Whilst both parties agree that the pharmacy needs to move to a more accessible location the terms under which the university wants it to move are not viable to maintain the running of this business. Without the move the problems of inaccessibility, lack of custom and frustration of both patients and health care officials remain.
The pharmacy’s owners, Eion Martin and Alasdair Kenny, have been in talks with both the university and Bailrigg Health Centre about changing their location. They are aware of the benefits of being in a more prominent position yet have been frustrated by unrealistic terms made by the university. This has been an ongoing battle since 2003 with both the university and the owners trying to find a solution to suit everyone.
When asked to comment on the situation, Martin told SCAN that “the terms were unreasonable. The University wanted to take a cut of our turnover, not profit but turnover, and wanted to increase the rent which would have ended up killing us. It would have been as if I was paying to go to work.”
Martin went on to reveal that a break clause had been written into the agreement which allowed the university to kick the pharmacy out with only six months’ notice. ‘Although the university claimed they would not use this clause, why [else] would they write it into the agreement?” he said. “Had we kitted out the new location, [at a cost] of £50,000, and then been told that we had to leave, we would have had nowhere to go.”
The issues relating to a move are complex. Firstly, rent would increase, something the doctors’ surgery does not have to worry about since their rent is paid by the health authority. In addition the pharmacy receives a small grant without which it would not survive. When this runs out in 2011 the pharmacy will have to close since it will no longer be able to support itself.
“It is a nice little business, but it is never going to pull in the big bucks,” said Martin.
Lynn Jones, Practice Director of the health centre, is in favour of a relocation, believing that the pharmacy and surgery should be under one roof. “I would like the pharmacy to be closer to the surgery since it is a long way for sick patients to go, and is hard to find particularly when it gets dark,” she said.
Jones continued by saying that meetings had been held to discuss a takeover by the health centre in order to improve the service provided to patients. However, these meetings have come to a stop, creating the feeling that nothing is moving.
Pharmacy employee Diane Waite said: “I like the present location, yet if we were more central then we would certainly have more custom. Some students haven’t got a clue where the pharmacy is after two or more years of living on campus.”
This feeling was reiterated by second year student Sophie Unsworth who said: “When you are ill the last thing you want to do is walk all the way up to the pharmacy. It should be nearer the doctors’. Sometimes it is easier to go into town and pick up a prescription than walk to Bailrigg.”