Of the 40 contractors in England who responded to the survey – which ran throughout October – none experienced a rise in personal income, while 17% said their income had stayed the same.
The proportion of pharmacy owners reporting a drop in personal income increased by four percentage points – from 79% reporting a fall in income over the 12 months from October 2016 to 2017, which coincided with the imposition of a 12% cut to the country's community pharmacy budget.
The average income decrease experienced by contractors in 2018 was 15%, the survey revealed, compared with 13% in 2017.
Who is to blame?
In July, C+D revealed that 140 pharmacies had closed in England between November 2016 – the month before the 12% funding cut came into force – and May 2018. Just two months later, the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) confirmed that this had increased to 165 closures by July.
The C+D Salary Survey 2018 suggested a large majority of contractors in England blamed the DH for their decrease in personal income, with 79% of respondents agreeing the government has not given the sector enough funding.
Meanwhile, 21% of respondents placed the blame on PSNC for failing to negotiate a better contract.
Funding cuts are biggest threat
Cuts to pharmacy funding in England were the biggest threat to contractors’ pharmacy businesses, according to 63% of respondents.
However, some contractors believed it was an accumulation of challenges – including funding cuts, the category M clawback and increased competition – that threatened their businesses.
One contractor said: “You can’t take one problem in isolation and say that’s the reason [for] the threat [to] my business.”
Find out – in contractors' own words – what it is like to be a pharmacy owner in England in 2018.
Personal financial adjustments
Contractors also had to make personal financial adjustments to weather the financial challenges facing the sector. One third (33%) of respondents said they had cut back on holidays, while a quarter (25%) said they had taken out or extended a loan.
One contractor said they had “supported [the] business with [their] personal pension fund” and another said they had “borrowed thousands from family”.
Another said they had to “cut back on everything”. “My divorce settlement is unaffected by the cuts so I need a relatively high salary to survive,” they explained. “Bankruptcy is looking like a sensible option”.
From reducing locum rates to scrapping services, find out what else C+D learned about how contractors in England are weathering financial challenges in 2018.
The C+D Salary Survey 2018 – which ran throughout October – was completed by a total of 1,916 pharmacists and pharmacy staff. C+D's coverage from the survey can be found here. The number of contractor respondents from Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland was too small for C+D to conduct a similar analysis.