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In their own words: Why 65% of contractors want to leave pharmacy

Some 87% of contractors said they would not recommend pharmacy as a career
Some 87% of contractors said they would not recommend pharmacy as a career

Stress, lack of funding and paperwork are making pharmacy owners in England question their future, the C+D Salary Survey has revealed

With a new funding contract, rising medicine shortages and more pressure to offer services, the landscape of pharmacy has shifted over the past 12 months. Judging by the stark findings from the C+D Salary Survey 2019, these changes have not been greeted with universal enthusiasm.

The survey – completed by 46 English pharmacy contractors between October 1 and November 14 – highlighted a pattern of increasing disenchantment. Almost two thirds (65%) said they feel “disillusioned with pharmacy as a career” and would like to either sell their business to retire or move out of the profession. This was an increase of seven percentage points on last year’s survey.

Furthermore, a staggering 87% would not recommend pharmacy as a career – an increase of twelve percentage points.

One contractor tells C+D they are “desperate to get out of this joke of a profession” and that although there are trying to sell their pharmacy, “nobody is interested at any price...I can't say I blame them, no pharmacy is worth investing in”.

Why have pharmacy contractors become so pessimistic about the profession?

“Not making money”

Three quarters of respondents saw their personal income decrease over the past year. Out of 83% of contractors who were dissatisfied with their income, two thirds blamed the government.

The proportion of contractors who experienced an income drop has almost doubled since C+D’s Salary Survey 2016 – the last to be conducted before the introduction of a 12% cut to the sector’s overall funding.

“The government drives down ambition through their action,” says one contractor, who “used to love [their] career, but not anymore”.

Another says that while they have “always been positive about pharmacy”, they are now “working so hard, not making any money”. They are tempted to close their business, “but the pharmacy is supposed to be my pension plan, and I have to hang on hoping for better times”.

This financial strain is continuing to have a knock-on effect on the wellbeing of pharmacy teams – 61% of contractors said they could not give their staff a pay rise, six percentage points higher than in 2018.

Funding cuts still the biggest threat

A whopping 87% of contractors surveyed perceive cuts to pharmacy funding in England as the biggest business threat, a 24 percentage point increase on last year.

Almost one in three (29%) said the factor most affecting their service to patients is “increased paperwork”, while several said it is inadequate funding.

“Drinking every night due to stress”

All of the contractors reported high stress levels, while more than half (57%) reported it as “very high”.

One contractor says they “don’t have the time to talk to anyone” about their financial stress.

No work-life balance

All contractors surveyed reported an increase in their workload. This was evenly attributed to paperwork (22%), sourcing medicines (22%), and delivering services (20%).

One pharmacy owner says that more than half their working hours are spent on paperwork and sourcing medicines. They “take frustration out on family” and are “drinking every night due to stress”, they admitted.

Almost half (48%) said their workload is “often unrealistic”, and two in five (39%) said their life is “dominated by work”.

Describing the impact of a five-year contract of frozen funding, one contractor says: “I despair that the government and PSNC feel it is right to greatly increase our workload and expect my staff not to get a pay rise for eight years – three years of cutbacks [followed by] five years on the same revenue.”

Another believes they can’t “afford a work-life balance and pay the bills for the business”. Although their future retirement depends on continuing their business and selling it in a few years, the “personal cost is great in the meantime”.

“Besides Sunday, I take a day off from business [each week], but both days are spent doing paperwork or [attending] courses. I can’t afford to go out to meet the very few friends I have got left,” another contractor tells C+D.

With pressures growing on England’s contractors – and their teams – the government must urgently make good on its promise to “unleash the potential” of the sector, along with adequate funding, or see a wave of passionate pharmacists turn their back on pharmacy for good.

The C+D Salary Survey 2019 – the largest UK survey of community pharmacy, and the biggest in the survey's 12-year history – ran between October 1 and November 14 and was completed by a total of 2,556 pharmacists and pharmacy staff. C+D's ongoing coverage from the survey can be found on our dedicated hub.

The number of contractor respondents from Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland was too small for C+D to conduct a similar analysis in these three countries.

10 Comments
Question: 
Would you leave your job in community pharmacy to work in a different sector?

Chris Locum, Locum pharmacist

A staggering 87% wouldn't recommend the profession..and contractors are so negative...When the government wants to undermine and close down pharmacies it becomes quite clear why they might be less than positive. I am afraid the public see pharmacies as nothing more than click and collect (as others have said before) on an increasing scale. I dread the day we read of serious physical harm to an understaffed pharmacy team with an instant service mentality (with EPS and online shopping

ComPharm Pharmacist, Superintendent Pharmacist

Do we really need to be recognised as a profession and let the likes of GPhC and PSNC ruin our lives. I would personally rather join the trade unions where their members cant be bullied by the government and their remuneration negotiated with members approval

Benie I, Locum pharmacist

Great post. Try shouting at a tube station attendant and see how far you get. Professionalism in community pharmacy has been dead for ages but how would pharmacist set about joining the trade unions?

Adam Hall, Community pharmacist

There are financial pressure but that is true of any business. However, on top of that is the increasing unreasonableness of the public. They expect instant service - which is great when you are in control of the whole process - and think it is perfectly acceptable to shout at staff when they don't get what they want (which is very different from what they need or what we are able to - legally - provide). They think unobtainable stock can be made to magically appear and that our sole aim is to spoil their day - which is ironic because, too often, it is the other way round! (NB For balance, some patients are genuinely lovely and really appreciate what we do for them)

anti-depressed Pharmacist, Manager

As I have said before, some patients need a verbal slap. Let them go find this magic pharmacy that will lay out the red carpet for them as soo as they enter or has every drug and every otc product created in the last 100 years. Some patients are not worth the cost if they are upsetting staff and sometimes other customers.

Leon The Apothecary, Student

Education is a definite must. I'm pretty sure the vast majority have no idea what happens with the prescription journey.

Industry Pharmacist, Head/Senior Manager

The public have seen chemists the same as Argos or Halfords. It's an order and collect service. The quicker the better. The public are simply not interested in the so called profession. Community pharmacists must accept reality that the public and government see community pharmacists as nothing more than a shopkeeper. People don't even know or care that Pharmacists have degrees.

ABC DEF, Primary care pharmacist

so true..the profession or more specifically the community sector has eroded to merely a click and collect service. I bet people don't even care if there is a Pharmacist around, and don't they worry, remote supervison will kick in soon and ACT will be stepped up to be in charge of daily pharmacy operation without needing the presence of a Pharmacist! Funny that patients behave much much better and pay you much more respect when you work in a surgery setting seeing them f2f in a consulting room. 

Independent Dave, Community pharmacist

Yep....if not forced out finacially, then the few us lef will be forced via a breakdown or heart attack. Whichever comes first. Either way, win-win as far as the government and remaining multiples hoping to clean up are concerned

bhupendra lakhani, Community pharmacist

yes 

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