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Pharmacy pressures forced 51% of contractors to halt non-essential services

More than half of community pharmacy contractors in England responding to a PSNC survey were forced to stop offering non-essential services due to the pressures placed upon them, the negotiator has revealed.

According to estimates from 418 contractors and head office representatives – representing more than 5,000 pharmacy businesses – the provision of advanced services was also affected at 69% of the businesses responding to the survey.

Almost a quarter (22%) of these respondents said their businesses had “no capacity to take on new services in both the short and long-term”.

“This will negatively impact on the range of services that patients and the public can expect to receive from pharmacies in the future,” the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) commented.

In an exclusive interview with C+D last month, PSNC CEO Janet Morrison said contractors she had spoken to were having to consider whether they have the capacity to take on new services – such as the smoking cessation or hypertension case-finding service – or whether they should “slow [them] down” or pause them altogether.

Read more: PSNC chief: Workforce pressures hinder pharmacy’s move to service-led model


PSNC’s investigation comprised of two surveys launched in mid-January. The first was completed by pharmacy business owners and head office representatives, while pharmacy team members completed the second.

Pharmacy team members’ responses on the provision of services chime with the business owners’ views, as more than two thirds (67%) said the pharmacies they work in had been forced to reduce the services they offer to patients.


Pressures affect service provision

A large majority (92%) of both pharmacy teams and business owners said the pressures on the sector are negatively affecting the service they can provide to patients.

The ramifications ranged from less time being dedicated to patients, to prescriptions taking longer to dispense, according to business owners.

PSNC’s survey has also revealed that 91% of responding pharmacy business representatives reported experiencing staff shortages, with the average affected pharmacy losing more than 13 hours a month because of the issue.

Commenting on the survey’s results, Ms Morrison urged NHS England and NHS Improvement and the government to work with the negotiator to “urgently address the causes” of pressures affecting the sector.

“Without this extra support, patients and the public can expect to see an end to some of the pharmacy services that they have come to know and value,” she continued.

An uplift in funding for the sector is what is ultimately needed to “ensure pharmacy businesses are economically sustainable”, PSNC wrote.

In 2020, PSNC asked contractors to “reconsider” providing services that are not part of the pharmacy contract for free.

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