The future of Boots high street branches across Cumbria have been put in doubt after the company confirmed plans to close 200 across the UK in a bid to secure its financial future.

The retail chain said its owner, Walgreens Boots Alliance (WBA), has now approved a plan which will see primarily local pharmacy branches shut down in locations where there are other stores nearby.

While it is unclear how close stores need to be to be under threat, the announcement does not bode well for Barrow, which currently has three stores, and Carlisle, which has two. They are among the 18 stores located across the county.

The boss of Boots UK and Ireland said the closure plan was “the right thing to do” as it grapples with tough market conditions both in the UK and elsewhere in the world.

It is unclear how many jobs will be affected by the move, with Boots promising to find new roles for staff where possible.

Sebastian James, managing director of Boots UK and Ireland, said: “We believe this is the right thing to do as it means that we can invest more in staffing those stores while not reducing our 90 per cent coverage within a 10-minute drive of a Boots.

"We do not anticipate a significant effect from this activity to colleagues as we will redeploy the overwhelming majority to neighbouring stores."

The announcement comes as WBA announced a 1.6 per cent drop in global sales in the three months to May 31, which it said was mostly down to the decline in the UK.

While comparable pharmacy sales at the chain were up 0.8 per cent during the period, retail sales dropped by 2.6 per cent, it said.

Boots first warned back in April that it would be reviewing its estate of almost 2,500 stores as it looks to cut costs. It employs around 56,000 people in the UK.

Usdaw, the union for retail workers, called for the company to enter talks and said it was "worrying" news for employees.

National officer Daniel Adams said: "We urge the company to engage with Usdaw as the trade union for Boots retail staff to ensure that all avenues to minimise job losses are explored during this critical time.

“This issue is not confined to Boots; our high streets are in crisis and we need the Government to adopt a clear and coherent strategy for retail, to address the worries and concerns of shop workers and our members.”