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Six in 10 independent pharmacies cut staff to ‘limit costs’ in 2022

Almost six in 10 independent pharmacies were forced to cut their staffing to manage financial pressures last year, the National Pharmacy Association (NPA) has revealed.

An NPA survey of 222 independent pharmacy owners and senior managers this month found that respondents had to take several actions to mitigate the impact of reduced income last year.

Almost six in 10 (59%) said they had “reduced staffing” to “limit costs”, while a third (33%) had cut opening hours and 38% had “limited or stopped” some NHS services, the NPA revealed today (February 28).

Read more: A fifth of employee pharmacists report ‘dangerous’ levels of understaffing

In addition, 59% of respondents had “limited or stopped” previously free support services they had offered, such as home deliveries, or had introduced charges for them.

 

Majority of independents lost money in 2022

 

The NPA found that the vast majority (91%) of pharmacy owners who responded made a “net loss dispensing medicines for the NHS” for at least one month of 2022.

Almost half – 48% - lost money on dispensing “for six months or more”, it said.

Read more: PSNC rejects ‘totally inadequate’ proposals to relieve sector pressures

In all, 93% said they had experienced “at least one month of negative cashflow” in their pharmacy business, while 45% said that “overall outgoings had exceeded overall income in at least six months of the year”, it added.

 

Asking family for cash

 

The NPA said that 40% of pharmacies owners reported having to increase bank borrowing in 2022 to maintain operations, while a fifth (20%) had “asked families for financial assistance”.

The survey results lay bare the “bleak financial reality facing many independent pharmacies after years of underfunding”, NPA chair Andrew Lane said. 

“Dispensing at a loss and negative cashflow is clearly unsustainable”, he added. “This funding crisis must be addressed urgently or pharmacies will fall into a spiral of declining services and ultimately widespread closures.”

Read more: CCA: At least 720 English pharmacies permanently closed since 2015

And Mr Lane warned that independent research commissioned by the NPA last year warning of “a nationwide financial emergency” in the pharmacy sector is ringing true.

“Tragically, the story is playing out very much in line with [this warning]”, he said.

It comes as the 2022 C+D Salary Survey last week revealed that a fifth of employed pharmacists feel staffing levels in their pharmacy are “dangerously low” - with increasing workload for remaining staff.

Read more: NHSE economic review chance to ‘prove’ unsustainability of pharmacies

At the same time, C+D has also revealed that the average locum rate has rocketed to a new record high for a second year in a row, reaching £33.30 per hour in 2022.

Meanwhile, community pharmacy organisations announced last month that they would join forces to fight against years of “chronic underfunding”, warning the Prime Minister that an urgent cash injection is needed to prevent “unprecedented” pharmacy closures.

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