Plans to close a Boots pharmacy have triggered a furious backlash in north Manchester. The store in Crumpsall Lane, Crumpsall, and its predecessor on Delaunays Road, near to North Manchester General Hospital, have been part of the community for decades.
But the Crumpsall branch is included in the company's programme of cuts announced in June. The health and beauty chain is to reduce its total number of shops from around 2,200 to 1,900 over the next year. One of those already closed in 2023 is Boots at the Salford Shopping Centre.
A campaign has been launched to try and save the Crumpsall branch, and three petitions both online and placed in local shops have been signed by almost 900 people. The shop is scheduled to offcially close in February but locals fear it may be sooner.
The organiser of the online petition told the MEN: "It is not hyperbole to say that it is a fundamental element of the community given that it provides a suburban population - including many elderly and infirm patrons - vital access to medicines, treatments and advice.
"These services are provided with a genuine warmth and smile that is absent from Boots' larger stores since the staff here typically operate on a first-name basis with customers, having good knowledge of customers' circumstances rather than the generic sales approach of retail sites.
"Since the news broke of its imminent closure and the relocation of its patient list to the Manchester Fort I have heard many sentiments expressed, ranging from anger and disbelief to fear and uncertainty.
"Ultimately, there is one recurring theme: it is simply not practical or fair for our most vulnerable in society - especially those with mobility and/or transport issues - to travel long distances for services which already exist nearby. It is senseless.
"Moreover, a range of sentiments because it is rare for the pharmacy to be empty - I can probably count on one hand with fingers to spare the number of times I have been the only one in store for my entire visit, in the last 30 years."
Local resident Dominic Nolan, said: "About three weeks ago there was a rumor that Boots was planning to close our local Pharmacy. I went in to check if it was true, unfortunately it was. This Boots pharmacy has been in Crumpsall for 40 plus years and is now the only one in the area. My daughter sent me an online petition to sign.
"I started a written petition and placed them in local shops and then another resident started another online. We currently have just short of 900 signatures.
"We want to show how a multi million pound company doesn't care about people, only profit. The company made record profits for 22-23 and the Chief Executive doubled his salary to £3.8 million. Yet they think it's okay for elderly people to walk three miles to collect their prescription. This decision was made at a time we are being to "go to your pharmacy" for help and advice when we can't get an appointment at our doctors."
Another resident, Margaret Humphreys, 79, said: “We need it, definitely! Wherever it goes, it’s too far for me to go. My husband has got dementia and I’m looking after him - we need it. I’m 80 next year, and my husband is much older and as I say he’s got dementia. I’m getting tablets for him all the time. To get a taxi to the Fort, it’s six pounds either way. They’re killing the life out of Crumpsall."
Barbara Shaw, 71, said: “It’s predominately elderly here who are reliant on this. Not only that, this is their top performing chemist in Manchester - they’ve got the most numbers. This is ridiculous, the CEO needs shooting for this. Where is their sense of community!
“Lots of people already rely on neighbours to pick up their medication. People just won’t be able to go further. This pharmacy is personal to the community. They’ve got to know people. James is the pharmacist, he looks after us, he’s wonderful, we all love him to bits. If you want to see James or anyone else in there, they will help you out, especially when you can’t always get into the doctors.
“The message is do the right thing and keep this open - it’s vitally important to the community which is predominantly old people. They rely on us to buy from them - so do the right thing.
“They’ve already told me that by Christmas we will have to be finding somewhere else even though it closes officially in February. They’re running everything down. There’s one thing about making money, but there’s another about being responsible for communities. You need to be socially aware of what’s going on in areas.”
Lorna Webb, 60, said: “I changed my pharmacy a few months ago to this one. My whole family use it. In terms of the value to the local community, it’s priceless, it really is. I feel very strongly about it.
“When you’ve got such a strong genuine community need for this, I absolutely don’t see any defence that they could have. It might not mean anything to the big suits at Boots, but the people I have spoken to have said I won’t be using a Boots again. I’ll go anywhere else but I won’t use a Boots again’. They’re just not listening and they’re not responding to the needs of the people that they’re supposed to be helping.”
“If they want to put a PR spin on it, they couldn’t have a better opportunity than this to actually publicise how much they care about their customers - but they don’t. We challenge them to examine their priorities because at the moment, they’re at fault. There is a recognised epidemic of loneliness due to the lack of personal contact and that comes into it. Loneliness is a killer.”
Sharon Davies - 63 years old: “We depend on this store, we depend on it! I’ve lived here for a long time - fifteen years nearly - and we’ve always had a Boots. It’s just a travesty, it really is. This is the only one left. The whole thing is nonsense.”
“At a time when we are being told to go to a pharmacy because you can’t get to your doctor and then they’re closing it - none of it makes sense. It is political. Levelling up was never levelling up - it’s flattening us.”
“I love that community are coming together and going ‘we’re not having it! There’s no sense to what they’re doing. It’s ridiculous. It’s desperate. Get a life, get a brain and do the right thing. But they don’t listen to people like us. Other people are in exactly the same position and they don’t listen.”
Boots have been asked for comment.