I have been mortified to see the recent headlines about medicines use reviews (MURs) in the mainstream and pharmacy media.
At a time when planned cuts to pharmacy funding are not far away, infighting is unhelpful, to say the least. If funding is cut, it will invariably hurt all of us in the long term, be it contractor, locum, pharmacy employee or customer.
I therefore find it difficult to believe that many pharmacists are perpetuating fraudulent practices. There may be the odd case of unethical behaviour by an individual here and there, but then we get good, bad and ugly in every industry. Why would any contractor, other than the most stupid, get involved in such fraudulent activity and risk losing their contract? Without specifics it is difficult to respond to the variety of allegations that are being made against contractors.
The money for funding MURs was taken from the global sum. Money – which contractors used to get as a right – was taken off them and can only be claimed back if MURs are undertaken.
Most companies incentivise their staff and, as a result, even if the full complement of MURs are undertaken, the contractor gets less than he or she used to be able to get. Even with incentives in place, some pharmacists just do not want to undertake MURs, as they do not like doing them.
As a director of a company that operates a number of pharmacies, I saw that pharmacists in some of our shops would do no MURs in some months, and in other months do double the 400 target for the year. I was moved to send an email to all our pharmacists in early March – before the Boots article in the Guardian broke – stating that we should be doing MURs when needed, rather than when we feel like it or simply to hit targets.
Whilst I have sympathy with the position pharmacists find themselves in, and the oversupply of pharmacists in the market, it is hardly something that is down to contractors. I think this is the elephant in the room. Pharmacists’ pay has stayed level or gone down over recent years. There are many pharmacists that are disgruntled with the position they are faced with and often the easy target to blame for their woes is the contractors.
What I find particularly distasteful is that many are happy to continue collecting their salaries and at the same time anonymously making claims against contractors about dubious practices.
I hope that C+D will consider the opinions of the overwhelming silent number of pharmacists and contractors out there who are united and working hard under difficult financial constraints.
This reader, who wishes to remain anonymous, oversees a chain of 10 pharmacies in England