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Revealed: 97% spike in number of pharmacists seeking debt support

Since 2021, the number of qualified, trainee and student pharmacists seeking grants and support with debts, benefits and housing have skyrocketed, C+D has learned.  

Over the last three years, pharmacy team members have found themselves in increasingly dire financial straits, “concerning” new data from pharmacy charity Pharmacist Support suggests.

The charity, which provides financial assistance to pharmacists and their families, former pharmacists, trainees and pharmacy students in need, told C+D this week (April 15) that it has “experienced a large increase in the number of grants provided” to struggling individuals.

It revealed that the number of grants awarded shot up from 79 in 2021 to 140 last year– a 77% increase. 

And the pattern is set to continue – the charity added that the total number of grants provided to the end of March in 2024 is already up 12% on 2023 figures, stressing that individuals may receive more than one grant in a year.

 

“Lawful eviction”

 

Pharmacist Support also revealed that in the same period, the number of pharmacy team members seeking debt and benefit advice skyrocketed.

While there were 30 requests for support with debt in 2021, last year the charity took on 59 – a staggering 97% increase in just two years.

And in 2023, Pharmacist Support received 53 referrals for specialist benefits advice, up 56% from 34 in 2021.

Pharmacist Support chief executive Danielle Hunt told C+D that the charity has also “witnessed an unsettling rise in tenants facing lawful eviction as landlords seek to sell properties”.

This has left many “financially vulnerable and struggling to secure alternative housing due to deposit constraints”, she said.

 

Struggling to “afford heating”

 

"In recent years, we've observed a concerning trend in the financial challenges faced by members of our pharmacy family,” Hunt told C+D.

Reflecting on the “significant increase in the number of individuals seeking financial assistance”, she said that “the current cost of living crisis, coupled with the surge in energy bills, has presented significant challenges for many individuals”.

“We've seen firsthand the struggle some face in affording heating amidst these rising energy costs,” she added.

Hunt said that “while many individuals demonstrate resilience and adept budgeting skills”, the charity’s “holistic support” aims to “empower individuals to overcome financial challenges and achieve long-term stability”.

“Each application is carefully evaluated, with tailored services offered to address the unique needs of every individual,” she added.

 

“Something is very wrong”

 

Pharmacists’ Defence Association (PDA) policy director Alison Jones told C+D that although pharmacists are “relatively well-paid individuals compared to average earnings levels, they may still be responsible for a household that is struggling”.

“The cost of living crisis is impacting everyone,” she added.

Earlier this month, a C+D snapshot poll found that just under a third of respondents said they would “have to cut staff” due to the latest increase in the national living wage.

Reflecting on the data, Jones said that “if employers are genuinely saying they can’t pay their staff at least the national living wage, then something is very wrong”.

She added that “in-work poverty” - where “a household’s financial resources are not enough to meet even basic needs” despite at least one person being employed – “is a particularly shocking indicator of inequality and not something we should be seeing in the pharmacy sector”.

It comes as the PDA announced on Saturday (April 13) that its donations to Pharmacist Support since 2017 had topped £250,000.

Last month, C+D’s Salary Survey revealed that contractors were left struggling to “make ends meet” with the majority reporting a drop in profitability and their own take-home pay last year.

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