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'I feel sick at the workload' – life as a pharmacy contractor in 2018

Contractors in England say funding cuts were the biggest threat to their business in 2018
Contractors in England say funding cuts were the biggest threat to their business in 2018

In their own words, pharmacy owners in England tell C+D how they have coped with mounting financial pressures in 2018

The C+D Salary Survey 2018 – which ran throughout October – has revealed that 83% of contractors in England experienced a decrease in their personal income over the previous 12 months. The survey also revealed the average income decrease was 15%.

“Catastrophic” effect on profit

Contractors identify the funding cuts as the biggest threat to their businesses, with one pharmacy owner describing the effect as “catastrophic” on their profits, cashflow and income.

“I had to put in £100,000 of my own money to survive,” one contractor says, while another says “dispensing is down about 20%”, and “the value of the business [has] dropped by about £200,000”.

One contractor reports their net profit is down by 40%, while another says their “gross profit reduced by 8% [and] turnover 13%, despite doing 20% more items”, which they describe as a “silly situation”.

A further respondent says they have experienced a 35% drop in profit margin, with a 10% increase in overhead spending. “We are busy fools and effectively prisoners within our business,” they add.

Increased stress

Pharmacy owners also describe how the funding cuts are increasing their stress levels, as the workload spirals for them and their staff.

One respondent says they are “struggling to stay happy with running the day-to-day business”.

Staff reductions

Contractors are unable to invest in staff and training as a result of the negative impact of the funding cuts on their businesses, the responses show.

One contractor says they have reduced their staffing costs by “nearly” 30% over the past 12 months.

For another, a “severe reduction in profitability” meant they were unable to give their staff a pay rise “for the first time ever”.

“The reduction in funding has meant I employ less staff, and the ones I do employ have to do a lot more sometimes [and] not up to previous standards,” another contractor says.

“In all my life, this is the first time I have experienced unparalleled challenges facing community pharmacy coupled with threats, and I don’t think the current pay structure [for] pharmacy staff is sustainable long term,” another added.

From reducing locum rates to scrapping services, find out what else C+D learned about how contractors in England are weathering 2018’s financial challenges.


Commenting on pay, stress and work-life balance in the sector, several contractors in the survey say they are “disillusioned” and “demotivated”.

One contractor “just wants to leave the profession”, but has a “mortgage and children” to support.

“I go to work and feel sick at the workload and the daily slap in the face at a government who mocks us by saying we are valued, but stabs us in the back all too often,” they add.

Another contractor says that “after over 35 years of enjoying my career, I now feel unable to spend quality time with patients in order to provide the level of service and advice I would like to deliver”.

The C+D Salary Survey 2018 – which ran throughout October – was completed by a total of 1,916 pharmacists and pharmacy staff. C+D's coverage from the survey can be found here.

How have financial pressures affected your pharmacy?

mansour dadkhah, Superintendent Pharmacist

Now: More work load, increase prescription volume yet less profit, more and more regulations.
Next 2 years: number of pharmacies reduced by 30%. Still same picture. DH happy achieving goal.
Any contractor taking loan for the purchase of pharmacy get bankrupt and homeless.

How High?, Community pharmacist

Yeah it's tough for the owners. We get that.

I could really bang on but what did you all expect?

Your profit is NHS money, the DoH know what you're all making. You really think they were going to allow you to carry on living the jet set life when there's no money for core services?

Just look at the profits the multiples post despite the layers of management they can afford, the money they waste trying to get automation to work and ask yourself what you'd think if you were running a cash strapped NHS.......

SIMON MEDLEY, Community pharmacist

jet set lifstyle...... as a independent contactor I find that remark highly offensive- I've had no holiday for 12 months -  as my mother used to say. if you can't be nice be quiet !. Its not just the cuts, its the clawback and the price rises

Hanbal Chaudry, Community pharmacist

I think I have only increased t/o cos a Lloyd’s Pharmacy closed nearby. But yeah situation is dire. Guess paying for the good old times in the late 90s.

Another Pharmacist, Community pharmacist

I've considered many ways to deal with this. My mental health has never been affected as badly as it is now. The business is making a loss month after month. There doesn't seem to be a way out. The banks are not helping. The wholesalers are not extending terms. Patients are expecting more. Funding keeps reducing. Costs keep on riding. We've funded the NHS to the detriment of ourselves.

John Ellis, Community pharmacist

It is already the case that prescription medicines are worth more exported or dispensed directly to patients privately. If this is the case, what happens when the entire medicines supply chain is monopolised? Companies shall control supply from manufacturing to distribution. Are we to believe that they shall be supplying medicines to all NHS patients at a loss? I very much doubt it.

Job of the week

Pharmacist (qualified Independent Prescriber)
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