Of the 46 contractors in England who responded to the survey – which ran between October 1 and November 14 – 76% saw their personal income decrease – a seven percentage point improvement on the 2018 figure of 83%.
Only 7% of contractors experienced a rise in their personal income, while 17% said it had remained unchanged over the past year.
The average income decrease reported by contractors in 2019 was 16%, C+D’s survey revealed.
Of those who experienced a decrease in their personal income, 46% saw it reduced by at least 21%.
Gareth Jones, head of corporate affairs at the National Pharmacy Association (NPA), said the findings “confirm the stark reality of the sector, that many independents are struggling to keep their heads above water, given that funding is not keeping pace with the escalating and turbulent costs of medicines”.
Two thirds, 66% of contractors who were dissatisfied with the personal income derived from their pharmacy primarily blame the government. This is a 13 percentage point drop on the 2018 figure of 79%.
Just over one third, 34%, hold the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee chiefly responsible, believing the organisation did not negotiate a favourable enough deal for the five-year funding contract.
The biggest threat to business
Eighty-seven per cent of respondents said “cuts to pharmacy funding in England” is the biggest threat to their business.
One contractor told C+D: “Proper funding and support is needed from the government, not just cuts. Limited imagination and [a lack of] commitment to common sense policy is hurting community pharmacy badly.”
Mr Jones said this is a “hugely testing time for most independent pharmacies”.
While welcoming the greater emphasis on community pharmacy as “the front door to health”, he added that “at this level of funding it’s likely that some of those doors are going to shut, permanently”.
Use C+D's infographic to learn more about how pharmacy contractors' businesses are being affected.
Eighty per cent of contractors have had to make personal financial adjustments in the past 12 months, with 30% cutting back on holidays, 22% taking out or extending a loan, and 9% forced to remortgage a property.
Twenty per cent of respondents said they had needed to make “other” personal financial adjustments.
One contractor commented: “I am now drawing on my savings, as the pharmacy isn’t giving a reasonable return on my investment. My financial adviser suggests I’d be better off selling the business.”
Another told C+D they had to employ an extra pharmacist to offer additional services, “but the income from these services does not cover the additional pharmacist’s wages”.
Calling on the government to do more for the sector, Mr Jones said it “should be prepared to direct more money into community pharmacy”.
He added that this could be necessary “to avoid uncontrolled closures or if it becomes clear that funding is insufficient to maintain new services, such as the community pharmacist consultation service and transfer of care”.
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.