Owner of 12 years forced to sell pharmacy 'decimated' by funding cuts

Pupinder Ghatora: I never thought I’d sell my community pharmacy in a million years
Pupinder Ghatora: I never thought I’d sell my community pharmacy in a million years

A pharmacist has told C+D he was forced to sell his community pharmacy last week after it was “decimated by the government”.

Pupinder Ghatora – the owner of Woodlands Pharmacy in Oxford for 12 years – told C+D last week (November 3) that he made the decision to sell his business last year, “when the first real [funding] cuts hit”.

“I never in a million years thought I would sell my community pharmacy. I thought I would retire looking after my community there,” Mr Ghatora said.

“The feeling was: this is going to get worse,” he explained. “We were just about making ends meet – [the cuts] wiped out any [profit], so we were working just to pay bills.”

Mr Ghatora said despite starting a local campaign, which garnered support from “over 100 people”, he was “going home [from work] angry and upset”.

“I was worried about putting food on the table and looking after my patients,” he said.

“Before it was advertised, it was sold”

Despite the impact of the funding cuts, Mr Ghatora said finding a buyer for his business had been “straightforward”.

“Before it was advertised, it was sold,” he said. “The banks see pharmacy as a safe bet, so they are happy to lend.”

He explained that the buyer already owned three pharmacies so has “the muscle to absorb the cost”.

“He will probably make more profit than I did because he can spread the cost – more businesses can be an advantage if you can handle the stress.”

Mr Ghatora – who is also CEO of beauty product brand Ingenious Beauty – said the pharmacy's new owner took on the existing staff under employment regulations.

No response from former pharmacy minister

“The real frustration is everyone knows this is happening in community pharmacy,” he said. “All you read about is: 'You should become a healthy living pharmacy'.”

“I will be your mini-GP, but pay me for it and don’t take money away from me.”

Despite contacting previous pharmacy minister David Mowat twice, he never received a response, he told C+D.

Mr Ghatora added that he contacted his local MP Nicola Blackwood – who along with Mr Mowat, lost her seat in June – “10 times and got one response, saying because of her commitments she couldn’t get in touch”.

“If she can’t be bothered to come and see me, what hope is there for the profession?”

60 Comments
Question: 
Have you bought or sold a pharmacy since the funding cuts came into effect?

John O'Neill, Pharmacy Buyer

Thats a sad story.  Good pharmacies can be an important community hub.

Wish I had the capital to buy one just now.

Good luck in your future endeavours. 

 

Bhavna Patel, Community pharmacist

As a contractor doing similar volumes, my shortfall was £19k last month. I wish Pupinder all the best for the future. Yes, he earnt a handsome income, but he paid a very heavy personal price developing and maintaining his pharmacy. The stress and workload are on a different level as a couple of new contractors that I know are finding out.

 

 

Valentine Trodd, Community pharmacist

Practically zero MURs and NMS over the last 3 years - surely not the best way to maximise funding?

https://www.pharmdata.co.uk/nacs_select.php?query=FDK98

Overworked Pharmacist, Community pharmacist

Clearly there wasn’t a need for them, are you suggesting he fudged the figures to obtain the ‘extra’ funding. There are examples of that here in the C&D where employed pharmacists were falsifying MUR’s due to stress, for no financial gain?? Again another keyboard warrior who fails to miss the point and probably doesn’t and never will own their own pharmacy :’(

Valentine Trodd, Community pharmacist

Apologies, I forgot about the 'clinical need' bit for MURs... must have had it drummed out of me.

"fails to miss the point" ??

Chemical Mistry, Editorial

The comments perfectly sum up pharmacy, contractor such Pup having the right to sell their business after working hard and being at the right place at the right time no arguments their whilst maybe locums and employees resentful of their lot and wish way were in shoes, I know would like to be however pharmacy is the ****storm it is now is not because of Pup. If people think contractors should have given up on the money tree that was pharmacy years ago for the greater good so pharmacists and pharmacy could prosper for years to come must need their heads testing !

 

Ilove Pharmacy, Non Pharmacist Branch Manager

Then there is no need to jump up and down complaining now is there. You had your go on the 'money tree' so be thankful.

Pharmpreneur *, Pharmaceutical Adviser

Well Done Mr Ghatora, its great to see visionary entrpreneurial pharmacists like you taking the lead and showing the rest how it should be done. If Lloyds can use the current climate to further their own agenda then why not the hardworking 'Little Guy'. All the best with your new venture and I'm sure with such market prowess -'Ingenious Beauty' will no doubt flourish too. 

P.S I note that the GPhC are rolling out mentoring, so If you are considering taking on the role of a mentor please let me know. 

Kuldip Rangi, Hospital pharmacist

Pupinder - many thanks for sharing your journey.

Speaking from a very similar situation - I fully understand your reaction to sell.

I have been in pharmacy 20 years, it has changed massively.

Can I ask what your plans are now?

Have you looked to move overseas ?

A LOCUM, Community pharmacist

paradise papers or universal credit , which one is nearer to you ? Question open to all comment makers. 

Din Patel, Manager

He sold his shop. Someone else thought they could make  a profit.
*If he cannot make a profit on 10k scripts a month, he should go to business school.  I do not believe for one moment his chemist shop was decimated. I suspect he thought "£1million+ - thank you very much". This is backed up by the claim he did not advertise the shop. How did people know he wanted to sell as his business was decimated? People for do not pay £1 million+ for a decimated business.

The story has a clear false headline. It should be "Pharmacist sells up for over £1 million as he fears lower profits." Shame on C&D for such a poor article.

Paying thousands to stick labels on boxes is not the future of pharmacy. This activity does not require a degree.

I left pharmacy one year after qualification. I earnt enough to retire at 40 years old, outside pharmacy (in business).

I objected to selfish, greedy and lazy pharmacists who are unable to compete and support contract limitation. It's time to scrap it and let anyone open a pharmacy wherever they want - preferably next to a high volume business.
Just imagaine the waiting times in a shop doing 10k prescriptions. Very poor service.  Time is money. Waiting times should be less than 5 minutes.

Paying £25 an hour is palty when dispensing c400 items a day. It is hardly a professional rate. Plumbers can charge more!

Barristers - £200 a hour (not day). IT Consultants, - £50-£100 an hour. Pharmacist AKA graduate shop assistants £25/hour!  Pay peanuts, get monkeys!
 

*This comment has been edited to comply with C+D's community principles*
Which are what? No freedom of speech?

Bhavna Patel, Community pharmacist

Well done to you Din for finding an exit strategy at a relatively young age. You do know people wait 48 hours to get a repeat signed at their surgery? Unless you know Pupinder, pray tell how did you arrive at his waiting times to make a sweeping judgement?

 

Pupinder Ghatora, Pharmacy owner/ Proprietor

WOW!  Well at least I have got people talking.  Obviously all the negative comments are from people who have never owned a business in their life!  The picture was me at 10 Downing Street, being invited by the Prime Minister for my services to the community, you can take what you want from my expression.  Obviously I was taking the same business approach as Lloyds as they have also closed 190 stores!!!  Yes, my business did 10,000+ items per month and I did sell the business without any issues, to an independant who already owns 3 other shops!  I paid my locums a minimum of £25 per hour, info. for all the disgruntled locums out there.  I built the business to that level, nobody handed me the scripts on a plate and if the government decides to treat community as the NHS doormat, why should I not make an issue of it.  All of the other 'YES MEN' can continue in their dreams of becoming clinicians and being paid for it.  Get it straight, your money is made for dispensing drugs, if you think MUR's and NMS and all that other stuff is going to make up for your Cat M losses, you are living in cloud cuckoo land.  I have done what I have done and am sad to leave my community, but more than happy to leave the likes of you ignorant idiots who would not have a clue about being a contractor and what it entails.  Two fingers to the lot of you!  Walk in my shoes and then have the balls to make a statement.  Too many keyboard warriors with very little real World knowledge!

 

 

Chris Locum, Locum pharmacist

Good luck for the future. You quit while ahead. What is the point of waiting until your business becomes insolvent - just to prove a point of government policy. The headline was written by C+ D. You can't flog a dead horse. I was thinking of a pharmacy I visited recently. It did something like 10-15k items at one point. If it was a single independent who chose to carry on for the sake of the community, it would have gone bust with the changing landscape a few years ago, with 100 hour contracts and changes in the area. I asked someone who could well afford to hang on in the game (2005) why he was selling up. His indepth analysis was " Dispensing paid the bills and for our previously, unrecognised advice and clinical input. The idea that formal clinical services such as MUR and commissioning will pay our bills is a load of   **s. There is no future for independents. They will go bust."

Amal England, Public Relations

Allow me to explain what's happened.... While you had your head stuck in your 10,000+ items, you were blind to the change going on in pharmacy. As soon as you realised you would no longer be taking home ~£200,00+ annually and you were made to work harder for less money you bailed out. Right now you are looking to start another business that allows you to earn that sort of money. Where were you when the professionalism was being sucked out of Pharmacy, where were you when Sue Sharpe was a lame duck, where were you when the government allowed the multiples to become so powerful that they can change the law at will, where were you when the GPhC abused its position as a professional body???? You come out now when your take home £s are threatened. I don't envy you, I wish you all the success...BUT it is independents like you that must take a significant portion of the blame for the plight of pharmacy today.

Bhavna Patel, Community pharmacist

Extraordinary assertion to make. You do know that when Pupinder started his contractor journey, multiples owned 52% of the contracts? He had no say in the overall picture. You also must know that no multiple came anywhere near the remuneration he offered his Locums? 

Lucky Ex-Locum, Superintendent Pharmacist

To tell the truth, if I had something I could sell for a minor fortune and not have to work in pharmacy again, I most certainly would. There's probably shovel loads of jealousy in a lot of the posts on here. 

M Yang, Community pharmacist

"...if the government decides to treat community as the NHS doormat, why should I not make an issue of it."

Mr Ghatora, you're well within your rights to make a noise about your situation. The public should know about what funding cuts are doing to important health care providers and it starts with your local community. Hopefully, it ripples from there and I'm sure many in our communities know how to use something called social media.

Not only that, this is your livelihood. Sure, you may not be living with your head just above water, but you built up this business through hard work and dedication. No one should expect us to operate at a loss, or for free. If an employee or locum were asked to take a pay cut or work an extra couple of hours everyday, you can bet they would make some noise (just to be clear, I'm a locum). Making some noise about your pharmacy is no different than doctors striking about their pay/contracts. We're professionals and professionals are people with bills to pay and families to feed.

 

 

Amal England, Public Relations

Though I agree with the bulk of what you say and indeed congratulations is due to what Pupinder has achieved- his practice must have been very welcoming to be able to build up to 10k+. My point is at some point all those items made him forget about every other aspect of the profession, just like many other independents and multiples too. As a result, people within government and the NHS are pushing pharmacy to edge, with the aid of the PSNC and GPhC, while the RPS takes a back seat. This has been going on for quite sometime. If the independents had come together and took action at the right time then Pupinder may still have wanted to keep his pharmacy- of course most didn't do that, they were too busy swimming in the sea of items.

Bhavna Patel, Community pharmacist

Why on earth must he have forgotten about the wider profession? The Ventolin he dispensed was the same stuff at all the other Pharmacies. Surely, the logical conclusion was that he set himself apart by offering an extraordinary professional service. His actions suggest that he embraced his profession and strived to make a difference.

Ilove Pharmacy, Non Pharmacist Branch Manager

When gross profits were rising many a sharp contractor was cutting wages. Now is the the time to reap the whirlwind.

John Smith, Locum pharmacist

No-one is denigrating your hard work, you've done well, congratulations. However, for the C&D to run its major story yesterday claiming that you had to sell your 10k item per month pharmacy because you were 'just making ends meet' is fanciful in the extreme. If you were just keeping your head above water I suspect it was because you were paying off a huge loan, otherwise you should have been earning an extremely comfortable living.

Stories like this do reach the upper echoleons of the health establishment, and rather than provoking concern, they provoke incredulity, let me assure you. 

Pupinder Ghatora, Pharmacy owner/ Proprietor

Why don't take the plunge and figure it out for yourself.  Become a contractor and let us see how you cope!  Those who can do, those who cannot become keyboard warriors!

Ilove Pharmacy, Non Pharmacist Branch Manager

I love the assumption by some contractors that if someone doesn't own a pharmacy they have zero business acumen or do not have any outside business interests. And Mr Ghatora, there is no need to be so aggressive, dialogue is healthy.

 

lucas perez, Student

I had to sell to put food on the table ..doing 10,000 items...who do you think you are kidding mr singh ! 

Overworked Pharmacist, Community pharmacist

To Mr Ghatora, thank you for sharing your own story. Unfortunately the culture in this country is one of happiness at the demise of others, rather than celebrating a persons success through their own hard work. Employed pharmacists, pencil pushing practice pharmacists amongst the dreamers and haters (thinking they're making a difference in the world) need to work a week in a real contractors shoes, running a busy pharmacy. The countless hours spent after the pharmacy is closed, doing paperwork, scripts, fullfilling regulatory requirements, and making sure you've enough cleared funds to pay suppliers, oh and the staff!! Not to mention sourcing stock in the current climate, and sacrificing family time and your own health whilst doing so! I could go on! Anyway, you got out at the right time, and I for one, am over the moon for you. Congratulations. 'Haters gonna hate' especially when there is so much uncertainty, and the reality of being replaced by a technician is becoming more and more real. So to all the negative comments concentrating or speculating about how much money this man has made, you need to re-read the article, whilst of course taking your 'green shades' of envy off!!!! 

Pupinder Ghatora, Pharmacy owner/ Proprietor

Nail on the head my friend.  Thank You!

Locum Pharmacist, Locum pharmacist

I'd be happy with that locum rate..I know of a few independents who are struggling too and it's a shame because they are generally far better places to work at than the multiples due to the work atmosphere and staffing levels.

Ilove Pharmacy, Non Pharmacist Branch Manager

Then you deserve everything you get. £25 per hour is closer to £14-15 ten years ago taking inflation into account. 

Bhavna Patel, Community pharmacist

Sorry to contradict, but you really don't get it. Whilst inflation may have gone up, his remuneration in his 12 years has gone down! For him to pay way more than the multiples should be applauded as they took the logical step if reducing rates. Forget inflation. What is the job worth? Not what you think the job is worth, but what will people pay for it. You know, reality.

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