'Independents will go bankrupt rather than close their pharmacy'

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Neils Pharmacy's Waqas Ahmad: I don’t know how any business is expected to continue as normal
Neils Pharmacy's Waqas Ahmad: I don’t know how any business is expected to continue as normal

Continued pressures on cashflow will cause pharmacy owners to go bankrupt rather than close their premises, a contractor has warned.

Contractors will be forced to run pharmacies on a “bare minimum level” of funding as they deal with larger-than-expected payment reductions, Waqas Ahmad, superintendent pharmacist at Neils Pharmacy and Prescriptions Pharmacy in Prescot, has told C+D.

Mr Ahmad's comments come in the same month that Lloydspharmacy has confirmed the locations of six “commercially unviable” branches it is closing across England, and a month after pharmacy chain PCT Healthcare closed two branches due to “continued attrition”.

Mr Ahmad stressed that “independent contractors like myself can’t just close our pharmacy”. “We have huge loans to pay off,” he said.

This means that as contractors in England attempt to cope with funding cuts, category M clawbacks and ongoing medicines supply issues, “it will not lead to closures, but to bankruptcy”, Mr Ahmad claimed.

He stressed that he is “doing everything I can to make sure we don’t have to cut staff and services” in his pharmacies.

“The first person to take the hit is myself or the shareholders of the company,” he said. “But that can only go on for so long.”

“Scary” drop in average item value

Mr Ahmad described the “scary” moment of seeing the average item value for one of his pharmacies drop by £1.32 for the month of November – a value that usually “fluctuates by pennies” each month depending on the “mix and cost” of items dispensed, he said.

This has led to “massive cashflow problems” for that branch, he added.

Mr Ahmad was expecting a reduced payment in November, “but it was far less than we expected”. “It’s quite hard to take to be honest,” he told C+D.

“I don’t know how any business is expected to continue as normal with that kind of reduction in cashflow,” he said. “It is impossible to legislate for.”

Last week, the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee confirmed that contractors in England would receive a "one-off-increase" of 12p-per-item in their December 1 advance payments – the second advance payment increase in a row, following November’s 15p-per-item increase.

While “any funding increase is welcome”, if Mr Ahmad’s average item value for December is similar to his November value, the early payment “will have very little effect for me”, he said.

Mr Ahmad had a “sense of relief” when speaking to other pharmacy owners who are facing a similar situation, and urged independent contractors not to “suffer in silence”.

Read why Numark's Mandeep Mudhar believes contractors will struggle to make a sensible plan for December here.

77 Comments
Question: 
How are you coping with the pharmacy funding cuts?

Ravi Patel, Community pharmacist

Just reading some of the comments here, especially between pharmacists, and it's embarrassing to think these contributions are from so called 'professionals'.

It also epitomises what is wrong with our damn profession - which is the lack of unity, camaraderie and force to act as one. When ‘Pharmacy’ suffers, WE ALL suffer, irrespective of which domino you are.

Neha Patel, Community pharmacist

Ravi I admire your enthusiasm and admire the love of the Pharmacy profession you have tbh so do I , But being a pharmacist qualified in 2008, I imagined roles of pharmacist may grow, the banner we put up, the signing in of Responsible Pharmacist that was a big deal, now did you as A pharmacist ever imagine a day where ..... regulations will ever allow ACTs to supervise pharmacies.....a day where the is no mention of pharmacy in the governments NHS plans (at all - so where is the increased roles of pharmacists) .....if pharmacists are to have no further roles and ACTs able to supervise Pharmacies....future plans to by law have bar codes on all boxes of medicines to be present and scanned the next step of IT make dispensing completely computerised..to finish category M claw backs and funding this dramatically low at present makes me feel there is true NHS cleansing of pharmacy profession being done right now....

Sunny Jim, Pharmacy Buyer

Locums have been suffering for years but contractors stayed silent.Where was the unity then? Now it’s happened to you , you don’t like it...and you attack anyone who have Different points of view to yourself. 

Neha Patel, Community pharmacist

Where are the PCTs now acknowledging failures in accepting opening of 100 hour pharmacies where there was no need...they have been quick and prompt to stop prescribing paracetamol...cutting back category m etc ... basically killing the pharmacies that shouldn't of been approved applications in the first place ...why not just admit it PCTs should be asked of what back handers have been made...

Wolverine 001 , Pharmacist Director

locums have not been suffering for years we are still paying decent rates with mileage and parking what are you talking about...locum are still in demand...locums are their own worst enemy and should suffer if they provide a bad service but the good ones are getting paid for and are all booked up... this is youir only arguement and frankly its wearing thin

Ravi Patel, Community pharmacist

For crying out loud, you reaffirm my point! I am saying there is no unity, which you agree but then wish to argue.

My apparent 'attack' could only have been construed towards the manner in which so-called professionals are talking to one another on here, and also the way in which certain people present themselves; it IS embarrassing and juvenile.

Everyone is entitled to an opinion, and I can't see where I have said anything to the contrary. I don't expect locums to be out holding up protest boards for contractors, but as I said, when 'Pharmacy' suffers, everyone suffers (from delivery drivers to locums) so I don't understand the pettiness of some of the comments; like it or not, they're on the same side.

Lucky Ex-Locum, Superintendent Pharmacist

Couldn't agree more. If an outsider was looking at this they would think that we were a bunch of pathetic, backbiting losers. An insider KNOWS that this is so.

Reeyah H, Community pharmacist

When contractors took out loans, there was no sign of this wonderful new contract and the pharmacies were sustainable. I can’t understand why contractors are called ‘greedy’?! It just speaks volumes of jealousy by non-owners. Believe me, you have nothing to be jealous about! 

Jonny Johal, Pharmacy Area manager/ Operations Manager

Reeyah, in addition to Sunny's contribution, contractors never moaned about falling locum rates - they have business expenses too, you know. The truth is you looked at locums as another expense, but expects the NHS to treat you as something else. Do you see the irony? Hahaha ... don't expect sympathy from me.

Wolverine 001 , Pharmacist Director

what falling locum rates i am still paying £25/hour load of rubbish.. a pure lie to provide misleading information any of my locums do not get paid less than £23... your lie is wearing thin 

Ilove Pharmacy, Non Pharmacist Branch Manager

You say this like you deserve to be knighted.

Reeyah H, Community pharmacist

Oh I’m hurt, not.  

Locum rates were falling alongside the contractors getting less pay Jonny. There is positive correlation between the two. The other issue was supply and demand. Do you like to purchase the more expensive boxes of paracetamol to keep the wholesaler that’s selling them keep up with their expenses? Nope. You are going to buy decent paracetamol, that’s less expensive. Now go and learn some business accumen.  

Jonny Johal, Pharmacy Area manager/ Operations Manager

About 20 years ago, I did a shift in Boots in Kenilworth for £50 per hour. I have to admit this was a one off ... now, not even these one offs. I have not seen £25 an hour being paid for a long time now. Contractors please get real, especially when you guys agreed on a rate and then cancel because someone cheaper comes along - yes, I have suffered at the hands of contractors who had no regard for my financial situation. Why should I care about them now?

I totally agree that unity is needed, amongst employee pharmacists and locums. The system will be fairer if the NHS abolishes all pharmacy contractors and make all pharmacists employees.

A Hussain, Senior Management

Why is taking advantage of market forces to exploit a contractor fine.  But when a contractor does the same it is deplorable.  I pay £25 an hour and continue to do so if the locum is good as the premium is covered by their abilities.  Maybe you're just not worth £25 an hour in this market.

Wolverine 001 , Pharmacist Director

Again lies, I paid £25 yday for a locum he has done a sterling job and have booked him again at the same rate for next week... have you had something done to you by a contractor... i know a good shrink!!

Ilove Pharmacy, Non Pharmacist Branch Manager

You do know that's actually less than 10 years ago before your head gets too big?

Wolverine 001 , Pharmacist Director

I do I used to get £35 when i qualified but this is not the contractors fault its to do with supply..... but defintaley not £15/hour that is just nonsense - but what do you know you are a non-pharmacist branch manager didnt you use to manage Greggs???

Jonny Johal, Pharmacy Area manager/ Operations Manager

Wolverine: "I do used to get £35" - my point reaffirmed, but "not the contractors' fault" hahahaha ... this is so funny ... did you get a little voice in your head to cut the rate then?

Ilove Pharmacy, Non Pharmacist Branch Manager

Very snobbish considering your 'profession' is going down the toilet. Greggs is probably paying better than your locums/employees are getting though. Lol

Sunny Jim, Pharmacy Buyer

I don’t think locums are jealous. I think what’s laughable is when contractors think they should be immune from cuts because they’ve taken out loans. You took a risk and it’s back fired. Tough !!! That’s business 

Wolverine 001 , Pharmacist Director

what about the one you bought??? saved up from locumming - how much debt have you taken...just like all staff inc the directors salary they are all expenses so you have no arguement - anyone rteading this please do not take notice of these so called "locums" they talk nonsense and should be renamed trolls 

Reeyah H, Community pharmacist

I agree with you. I’m glad we took a risk though! 

D Edwards, Hospital pharmacist

I think sympathy is hard to conjure for a lot of employee and locum pharmacists after years of stress, increasing work loadand reduced pay. Whilst multiples are the worst offenders, I have seen some outrageously low salaries for managers from some independents too. You reap what you sow and undoubtably some of these worst offenders will go under and deservedly so on a moral level. It’s the good companies I feel for, those who have always supported their staff and have maintained a good relationship of genuine care with the community. Yes, these pharmacies are out there! 

Wolverine 001 , Pharmacist Director

sorry most jobs are £40k per year inc multipes with holiday and extra benefits.. and hospitals locums get great rates so again what are you talking about... some jobs advertised at certain rates are then re-negotiated for a higher annual salary 

Ilove Pharmacy, Non Pharmacist Branch Manager

That salary is less than 10 years ago. 

Wolverine 001 , Pharmacist Director

But still more than you non-pharmacist role 

Ilove Pharmacy, Non Pharmacist Branch Manager

Are you still here? I thought you were off on your permanent hols with your millions. Leave the plebs to squabble over pennies. Don't forget that postcard. 

Wolverine 001 , Pharmacist Director

I wish we could post emoji's!!!!

Marc Borson, Community pharmacist

putvdhipThis is exactly what the government want it saves them issuing compensation or incentivising closures. The banks will recall the debt as soon as they see cash flow faultering. The sad thing is that this guy will probably be personally guaranteeing a loan so his house may also go. Students of pharmacy be warned.

 

Sunny Jim, Pharmacy Buyer

For years contractors have treated locums with contempt. Locum rates were higher in 2002 with respect to the rates we have now...it’sonlywhengovernment cut back funding was there a nationwide outcry for unity . What goes round comes around .  One independent paid five weeks after the invoice was recieved and thought he’s God gift by driving around in his Q7. The smart Locum should have seen this coming and so invested and saved . That smart Locum is no longer a slave to the contractor, so no I have no sympathy for Brother Ahmad. In business you win some and loose some. Someone’s loss is someone’s gain . It’s called capitalism 

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