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COVID-19: Multiples redeploy head office staff to help in-store

Some pharmacists with head office jobs have been redeployed to help in branches

The four largest multiples have told C+D they have redeployed clinically trained and support staff who usually work in other parts of the company to help frontline pharmacy teams.

Boots, Lloydspharmacy, Well Pharmacy and Rowlands Pharmacy have all redistributed some of their employees to other parts of the company, including pharmacy branches, to assist frontline teams during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Other measures adopted by the multiples include hiring temporary support staff and pharmacy students, they told C+D.


“A number of support office colleagues and field teams with professional qualifications” are now working in Boots branches across the country, Alison Ramage, head of HR – pharmacy at Boots UK, told C+D last week (April 15).

Some Boots pharmacists who are self-isolating at home are remotely supporting their colleagues in branches by remotely “answering telephone calls for our professional helpdesks”, Ms Ramage added.

Boots’ learning and development pharmacists – who normally create continuing professional development and learning modules for the company’s pharmacy teams – have “stepped forward to support the NHS and [the] government with the setup of drive-through COVID-19 testing centres”, she said.

They have so far trained around 280 people, of which 180 are Boots colleagues, on how to swab NHS staff to test for COVID-19, Ms Ramage added.


Earlier this month, Toby Anderson, CEO of Lloydspharmacy’s parent company McKesson UK, said 2,500 company employees were self-isolating at home.

More than 350 Lloydspharmacy staff have been redeployed from other parts of the company and company field teams and now “clinically-trained head office staff are working in our pharmacies”, Lloydspharmacy chief retail officer Kevin Birch told C+D last week (April 14).

Lloydspharmacy branches will also receive help from more than 400 pharmacy students, some of whom have already started their roles.

All students working in Lloydspharmacy branches have flexible contracts and “are being paid”, a spokesperson told C+D.

Well Pharmacy

Around 150 Well Pharmacy support centre staff have been redeployed to work in pharmacies, assist with the home delivery service, digital pharmacy services and “other essential support centre functions that enable our pharmacies to open and respond to customers and patients”, a Well spokesperson told C+D last week (April 15).

Well has also recruited 70 temporary community pharmacy drivers, as it said “a significant proportion of our driver population is having to isolate” and “around 400 temporary community pharmacy support colleagues”, of which 70 have an MPharms degree, the spokesperson said.

The temporary pharmacy support staff are completing a Buttercups Pandemic training course to give them “a brief introduction to pharmacy” and make it “clear what they can and can’t do in the pharmacy depending on their experience”. Their responsibilities could include “queue management, stock replenishment and general customer service”, the spokesperson added.

Well has invited “around 70 university students from across the UK to help out in their home towns”, some of whom have started their roles, while others will join the frontline after their end of year university exams.

Rowlands Pharmacy

A Rowlands Pharmacy spokesperson told C+D last week (April 15) that the multiple has redeployed pharmacists within the retail head office “to assist in branches and also to help out at our centralised dispensing facilities”.

What do you make of the multiples' decision?

Kevin Western, Community pharmacist

I have to agree... this is more like typical BBC journalism, a story placed by an interest group to make them look good with no real depth. I recognise the need to provide new material but maybe something to say what triggered the story would give a better perspective?

Lucky Ex-Locum, Superintendent Pharmacist

So now be prepared to go into Lloyds, Boots et al and be faced with staff like rabbits in the headlights because they don't have a clue how bad things are at the front line. The backroom boys may now have a new-found respect for what front of house staff do (but I'm not going to hold my breath)

Benie I, Locum pharmacist

It's like the weekly clapping for the NHS. Nice gesture but utterly useless. Increase the pay to something respectable and forget the clapping and park the desk surfers back at HQ.

Benie I, Locum pharmacist

PR story. Can the editor cover the emerging story of Boots withholding rent at various locations around the country ?

P M, Community pharmacist

photo op!

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