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Numark: Pharmacists will axe free services because of cuts

John D'Arcy: Pharmacists should try increasing income before reducing services

Managing director John D'Arcy says survey of Numark members' responses to cuts show patients will be "biggest losers"

Pharmacists are willing to scrap free services to try and cope with government funding cuts, a survey of Numark members has revealed.

More than six in 10 of 112 members surveyed by the support group said they may stop delivering medicines to patients for free because of the planned 6% cut to the global sum in England, according to the survey results.

The same proportion would consider stopping other free services, such as prescription collection and monitored dosage systems (MDS), the results showed.

Three-quarters of members polled are likely to reduce permanent staff costs along with locum hours or rates, Numark told C+D today (February 22).

Numark members are also sceptical of government plans to change the law to allow independents to operate hub-and-spoke dispensing: only 4% of respondents said they are likely to adopt this model. 

More than eight in 10 members are likely to put investment plans – including refits – on the back-burner because of the cuts, the survey revealed.

Vulnerable patients worst hit

The survey shows that vulnerable patients will be the "ultimate losers" of funding cuts, according to Numark managing director John D'Arcy.

“I would urge contractors to review how they can increase their income before they make cuts that will weaken their competitive situation,” Mr D’Arcy said.

It is "inevitable" that independents will increase their own working hours, which “cannot be good for them, their families or the long-term viability of their business", he added.


Will you scrap free services to cope with the cuts?

We want to hear your views, but please express them in the spirit of a constructive, professional debate. For more information about what this means, please click here to see our community principles and information


Phil Bullen,

Let's be fair, whoever was the 1st pharmacy to offer these services for free many years ago did the profession an injustice! I have to pay for my groceries to be delivered and everyone accepts that, so why not medicines! And as for MDS for free!! Ridiculous! You lose money dispensing a monthly prescription via MDS! What sort of business does that! It's about time  pharmacy went on the offensive BUT it needs the multiples to do likewise and not just accept the lower margins due to their size! In my opinion they've always been the demon who makes the rest of us do these things for free! 

Angela Channing, Community pharmacist

I think this is the reason FOR the cuts! The Govt. looks at us offering all these free services like delivery and MDS packs, and thinks ..."well, we must be paying them too much!" Nearly every pharmacy has a van, and a driver, then there is the petrol, if the supermarkets need to charge, then ergo: we must be paid too much!?!?

V M, Pharmacy

The multiples will always offer free deliveries and MDS. If an independent started charging then patients will simply go to a pharmacy that doesn't. 

Farm Assistant, Community pharmacist

Try asking a vet or an optician for a free delivery.

Sami Khaderia, Non healthcare professional

what a load of [email protected] one will stop deliveries as its business sucicide....any pharmacy that does does will soon realise they hv lost that patient..!!

Stephen Eggleston, Community pharmacist

I think we have to be careful about which services we look at reducing. I have no issue with curtailing the delivery services possibly to one per patient per week and anything above that is charged for - I am sure we all have patients who have two, three or four deliveries per week and then are at the surgery on Friday "for their asthma/diabetic/medicine review" so don't really need a delivery service. However, MDS is different and, unless there has been some form of assessment carried out, simply not providing or stopping such a service may backfire. In general, I don't believe patients understand and/or appreciate everything we do for them that is above the basic service. Maybe the time is now to inform them?

Ian Littler, Community pharmacist

Nothing is free in this world as some one some where has to pay. I know self employed never put a price on their time. I have never understood why patients do not want to pay for their malaria avoidance tablets after booking a luxury long haul holiday ! So that is the dicotomy Educate patients that you get what you pay for or continue to provide an excellent service for nothing and be taken for granted

Peter Marshall, Community pharmacist

Numark are right. services can be free if there is profit in the remunneration system to allow this. Once that profit is eroded, you cannot offer free services. Why should nursing homes get free MAR charts and MDS.? Surely it can be part of the £3000 per month they charge patients. I don't think £20 per patient per month is excessive for the work involved. Equally for dosette box patients. My mum lives 100 miles away. I would pay for such a service. I just can't believe it is currently free. 

I wonder how many patients would call at a pharmacy to collect a prescription or ask a friend or relative to call if there was a £5 delivery fee. Quite happy to pay for the pizza delivery!! So I guess paying for important medicines would not be a problem

Jitendra Hindocha, Community pharmacist

I fully agrre

Shaun Steren, Pharmaceutical Adviser

Grandiose nonsense. Not a single independent will cease to provide MDS or delivery services and that is because any item turned away will be instantly acquired by the nearest multiple. A well known multiple initiated 'free' MDS and deliveries, those of you who are old enough will remember when everybody realised they had to follow. If we had a system of pharmacist only ownership, none of this would have happened. 

THB _B, Community pharmacist

I don't agree. It is possible to move away from free mds for care homes. It has to be simply replaced with something better that drives value and.can be charged for. We do this for our homes and charge. Homes are happy and we make profit. So it's about thinking about new commercial and clinical models that play to our strengths and are outside of the reach of Mr Hunt et al.

Harry Tolly, Pharmacist

"More than six in 10 of 112 members surveyed by the support group said they may stop delivering medicines to patients for free"

Same old John same old viewpoint. And we wonder why Pharmacy is in such a mess.

Barry Pharmacist, Community pharmacist

Harry what would you do to adjust if you were facing a fall in 6% of turnover?

What suggestions can you offer as I'm sure lots of readers want to know what to do?

Harry Tolly, Pharmacist

The first thing is to ensure a fair distribution so that those are that are most able to bear the cuts bear them. Thus , the vertically integrated chains should bear the brunt of these cuts by way of the discount scale taking into account economies of bulk buying by say Boots compared to a small independent.

This should easily lead to the smallest contractor NOT facing any cuts and the likes of Boots  facing large cuts. This is fair as Boots used to pay £150 million in corporation tax to the UK before being taken private (around 2006-2007) and it now pays virtually ZERO in corporation tax. Thus Boots would in effect not be losing out.

Simple really when you think about it.

Z ZZzzzz, Information Technology

It doesn't take a genius to work out that if Boots paid their fair share of corporation tax then the cuts to our global sum would never have been necessary.  Why doesn't Mr Birt tell it like it is.  Why is there not a parliamentary petition started that condemns Boots or a message going viral in the blogosphere calling for patients to boycott them until such times as they pay up!  (I fully expect this comment to be removed)

Barry Pharmacist, Community pharmacist

Harry, yes I agree. The clawback scale isn't fit for purpose anymore. Also agree that the DT needs a way to reflect the economies of scale that goes with large scale pharmacy ownership. Trouble is the DT is not designed for this. Have you any suggestion as to how your idea can be implemented in practical terms?

Harry Tolly, Pharmacist

Its not beyond the wit of the bean counters at the DoH to devise such a mechanism. Scale buying, like retrospective discounts on Invoice Price of specials, are a hidden corrupt force in the renumeration system.

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