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Lloyds chief – is pharmacy ‘just a government spreadsheet exercise’?

Multiples Lloydspharmacy pharmacy director Andy Murdock has questioned whether the government sees community pharmacy only as "a spreadsheet exercise" and not as a vital service provider.

Lloydspharmacy director Andy Murdock has questioned whether the government sees community pharmacy only as "a spreadsheet exercise" and not as a vital service provider.

Pharmacy director Andy Murdock told C+D in an exclusive interview that the government must be held to account for the latest, controversial deal and learn from the outpouring of anger against it.

His comments came as pharmacists commenting on C+D's website this week continued to vent their dissatisfaction with the 2011-12 contract settlement, which will see contractors face category M clawbacks in three waves from this month.

The response to the deal was the most negative Mr Murdock had seen in his three-decade pharmacy career, and it "sends a strong message to funders that things are now exceedingly tight".

"The outpouring we have seen should be a lesson, as I have never seen anything like that before," he said. "I would like to see if the government wants to continue its relationship with pharmacy.

"Is pharmacy just a spreadsheet exercise at the treasury?"

Sustainability of the sector was at risk, Mr Murdock added. "For any business you have to have confidence for investment and that is hard when that money is being taken away."   


Hope Mask, Locum pharmacist

All Pharmacists particularly independent contractors should rise up and reject these unfair and oppressive contracts by the duo of the PSNC and DoH. I still cannot comprehend how our predecessors ever allowed Pharmacy to be conned into this tight Conner. You continually allow yourself to be fooled by this "rob Peter to pay Paul" tactics of the Government. We jump at draconian deals which continuously see our payment for products and services delivered slashed on a quarterly basis and then you are told to prove your importance in the health sector by delivering new services and accept less pay for your core professional service i.e. dispensing. We have nothing to prove. Pharmacy has delivered safe and effective services for a century and its well recognised all over the world. We are professionals and should not let politicians and their cronies in business con us into cheapening ourselves. Where is MUR today? 6 years of hard labour on MUR by our colleagues with wonderful benefits to patient as many of us have saved lives by the quality MUR we do daily. Then suddenly they take it from us and give it to the doctors and ask you to prove yourself by taking up NMS.
Big Question! In which business sector do you find the customer dictating how much they'd pay for products, insisting on paying the cost price of products on display, to the point of even asking the business to disclose their cost price from manufacturers? ONLY IN PHARMACY, and such business will never survive long term. All these so called claw backs are not in the interest of the patient as soon enough many Pharmacies will close down and many Pharmacists will look to other countries with respectable contract structures. I believe we all can read in between the line. If we don't rise up and challenge this misdemeanour, then Pharmacy is definitely heading for the rocks.

Sultan Dajani, Community pharmacist

How things change?! I have always respected Andy but in 2008 he very publicly criticised us as “rubbish” at gathering evidence (PJ, 8 March 2008, p265) and therefore we deserved what we got. I argued against him and said pharmacists were great at gathering evidence and it is about time we stopped allowing the Department of Health to fool us by using this as a tool for inaction. Even where there has been irrefutable evidence of the usefulness of services (such as health screening through pharmacies, minor ailment referral schemes, patient group directions and of the public’s confidence in using pharmacy) the DoH has prevaricated and failed to secure funding for consistency of service or for roll-out to more pharmacies.

Conversely, where there has been a lack of evidence this has not stopped the DoH making policies damaging to pharmacy. I can cite on request!

I am all for the vigorous logical pursuit of an evidence base, but how far should it be pursued before it becomes obsessively impractical? I can see the DoH’s political reasoning for dragging up the ubiquitous red herring of “lack of evidence” as an excuse not to have to fund more services, to delay the onset of enhanced or advanced services and to shift the blame of inaction on pharmacists so that we can argue among ourselves.
My questions are - Are Andy Murdocks previous comments, obviously lacking in foresight now coming back to haunt him after he finally discovered the light switch? Does he regret consistently and persistently putting the boot into Community pharmacy by besmirching us and putting the blame of failure of funding by the DH firmly at our feet? Mindless, needless, unfair of our profession is self-harming and I hope Andy realises this. Better late than never I guess unless it's too late!

Medicine Master, Primary care pharmacist

Of course we are
how important are we in delivering votes?
i see no threats to resign from the NHS unlike our medical colleagues still wave this shroud.
Are we fully integrated in our approach to the DoH answer is no.
Why would any politician who sees absolutely nor problems with pharmaceutical service in this country bother, after all from an outsiders point of view look at all the wondeful services provided free of charge, considerable profits being made in spite of the complaints about payment, the huge demand for 100 contracts and best of all no one is going out of business, and patients do not complain. So politically every is fine.
Nero comes to mind

Robert Jones, Other pharmacist

If the multiples had not decided to "cash-in" on MURs originally the Category M reductions might have been less severe. Unfortunately the "bean counters" in corporate finance departments do not seem to realise that the NHS is a finite pot - if extra monies go out in one direction, the DoH will recoup those outgoings somewhere else. Unfortunately DoH and HM Treasury always overcompensate in their adjustments.

K Dhanoa, Superintendent

Totally agree with Mr Murdock, and a lot of my colleagues feel the same way both in manufacturing, wholesaling and more significantly pharmacy. All I can see is that the Government Views Pharmacy Funding as a soft target and in effect an open purse. Not as a crucial aspect of patient care. Politicians run on about how they are pro business and how pharmacy is the back bone of primary care and then in the other hand they relentlessly crucify us.

Well quite frankly enough is enough, and it goes without saying that this contract will be devastating to pharmacy. And I just got to say what a short term view this all is, with the inevitable scale back in pharmacy staff, the reduced service through put and potential closures due to this lack of funding who is really going to benefit from this in the long term. The patient?? A short term gain for the governments coffers and a long term destabilisation of the pharmacy network and the loss of investment by true entrepreneurs and vital independent pharmacist contractors out of the industry. Which inevitably will lead to a reduced level of care for the patient. Don't get me wrong pharmacists will certainly try their best for the patient but when the tide is constantly and more significantly against them then quite frankly we are just being set up to fail.

Bravo to the PSNC and the Government.

P M, Community pharmacist

10:16AM BST 03 Oct 2011
The Rail Maritime and Transport union today began consulting on a four-year pay deal which LU said offered the prospect of no industrial action over wages until at least 2015.

Under the deal, staff will get a 5% pay increase this year followed by RPI inflation plus 0.5% in the subsequent three years.

Industry sources said that if RPI inflation stays reasonably high, some Tube staff will receive a pay rise approaching 20% by the end of the settlement period.

The pay of Tube drivers, currently around £46,000, will go over £50,000, while some staff could receive a £10,000 pay rise over the four years, it was estimated.

The RMT said the issue of a payment for working during next year's Olympic Games in London was separate to the four-year wage deal

thanks to telegraph 3.10.11

Harnek Chera, Community pharmacist

I am surprised that the big boys like Lloyds, Boots and their like have not managed put sufficient pressure on the powers that be to rectify matters. Funding is shrinking as quick if not quicker than workload is increasing. There are still 100 hour contractors opening up everywhere so we are facing a battle on 2 fronts. Reimbursement is dwindling at the same time as losing market share. How can anyone invest in premises and personnel? the Government asks why there are no closures but independents will just work after hours for no money if they have to and multiples will just reduce the workforce and reduce investment. How can that improve productivity and efficiency for the frontline NHS services provide. Do not make these Cat M reductions and close the 100 hour loophole. Give us a couple of years of stability to concentrate on delivering new services for fair funding.

Rajive Patel, Community pharmacist

At last, a voice of reason, from within our industry. Bravo, Mr Murdock. You really are saying it how it is. Shame on the likes of buying groups, who are ominously quite when REAL issues are ahead of us.

I for one, will consider moving my business to AAH.

Again, well said Mr Murdock.

K.J P, Locum pharmacist

Hmmm ..... I wonder if he is addressing the PSNC and not the Government
They did the negotiation on our behalf !!!!!

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