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Xrayser: Being tough with patients to cope with the cuts

Xrayser explores methods of shielding his pharmacy from the impact of the cuts.

Many years ago, I watched one of these “hidden camera” programmes that aims to capture people’s reaction to unexpected happenings. In this case, it was set up in a shop facing customers at the till who would pay for something that was, say, £4.99 and hand over a fiver. The assistant would not give them the penny change. There then followed an exchange that ran along the lines of “Can I have my change?” “Do you really want it – it’s only a penny,” and so on. The point was that something the customer felt was their due was being withheld.

That’s how I feel at the moment – but multiplied by two million.

Two million one-pence pennies (£20,000) is the amount the government has withheld from me for 12 months, beginning last December. It’s impacting me, my staff, and my patients as I try to find ways to cope with the cuts. I've achieved some improved buying margins, but now instead of one delivery by a main wholesaler, we get umpteen small cardboard boxes from five short-liners as well. This is five times the work with cheaper suppliers who are much less reliable.

But there’s only so much we can cut staffing, improve buying margins, and re-use tea-bags – eventually we’ve had to look at what we do for free. No more phoning surgeries to find out why the script “promised by the doctor” hasn’t come as we can't afford the time to chase prescriptions for patients – as well as restriction on deliveries.

The phone rings, and when I answer it and bring up the patient’s medication record I see that the last thing on there are some made-to-measure stockings from 18 months ago. Before that we appeared to dispense and deliver a large number of items to her – up until the time another pharmacy moved into her doctor’s surgery. “I’ve asked my doctor to send a prescription to you, then your dispenser can come out to measure me again to fit them. My other chemist can’t do that.” I explained that her other chemist would have to do that now because we would not.

Later on a mother comes in. “I’d like you to sell me some chloramphenicol eye drops for my 18-month-old child,” she said, indicating said offspring with a slightly pinkish eye. When I declined she implied that, if not a doctor herself, she certainly had some medical training, through by her use of detailed medical jargon to persuade me otherwise. Having been unsuccessful in this endeavour, she then explained she had run out of her pill and could I loan her a strip, which resulted in a sale under the emergency supply regulations endeavour – for which I charged her £8.40 for the 60p strip.

It might seem tough, but those 780 pennies profit are a small start to recouping the two million I’m due.

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