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Are contractors buckling under the pressure?

"The past nine months have been an emotional rollercoaster for some"

Ongoing funding cut uncertainty is hard to deal with, says James Waldron

Are contractors heading for burnout? It’s the stark question posed by this week’s lead feature. The past nine months have been an emotional rollercoaster for some pharmacists, with funding cuts in England looming ever closer, only to be delayed last week – a month before they were finally scheduled to hit.*

Of course, all parts of the pharmacy team – and the UK – are under added pressure at the moment. Recent C+D headlines speak for themselves, whether it’s locums boycotting Tesco over rate cuts and a perceived lack of staff support or employees complaining of service target pressures at the multiples. But as contractors brace themselves for a renewed period of financial uncertainty, we thought it was time to look at how pharmacy owners are holding up.

If comments by Xrayser and Umesh Modi are anything to go by, they remain trapped in a state of limbo. While Xrayser outlines his ongoing dilemma of whether to “invest in staff or services, or cut costs”, accountant Mr Modi describes clients who are caught in a “vicious cycle” of decreasing revenue caused by pre-emptive redundancies.

But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Funding cut concerns appear to mask deeper workplace problems caused by piles of paperwork and an avalanche of admin. Judging by the results of C+D’s most recent Salary Survey, these issues are seeping into contractors’ personal lives – how else can you explain the startling statistics that 80% are suffering from stress and 54% have trouble sleeping? Factor in that the survey was conducted before the 6% cut to the global sum in England was even announced, and it’s clear the sector is struggling.

So what can be done to help? Pharmacist Support’s Diane Leicester-Hallam offers some practical tips for individuals to avoid burnout in this week's issue, but there also needs to be a sector-wide strategy to deal with this problem. Perhaps the General Pharmaceutical Council’s “programme of work” into pharmacy pressures will offer a long-term solution when it kicks off next month.

If you have any suggestions for how the situation should be addressed – whether that’s tighter regulation to prevent a target-driven culture in pharmacy, or ensuring the whole team gets a decent lunch break – send them to [email protected] and we will pass them on to the regulator.

*The government has since announced that the full details of its funding "package" for pharmacy will be announced in mid-October.


Philip Caton, Community pharmacist

Pharmacy has repeatedly shown its resilience and adaptability but usually we get hit with one or two things at a time. Now we face overload and independent contractors bear the brunt. Without head offices to deal with all the paperwork it all falls on the same desk. What we need is some stability while we consolidate what has happened so far. One big step would be for the Drug tarriff to take account of the pitiful discounts being offered by DTP  etc and where the discount by the manufacturer is set at 3.5% eg Boehringer ( yes 3.5%). It should only clawback 3.5%  by the deduction scale and not 9.5% in my case and much more in others. This is absolutely no different to applying ZD where no discount is available. I'm not happy about not making a profit but I am disgusted that the government expects us to subsidise the NHS. Name me another business where you sell goods for less than you pay for them? The government will not move on this unless there is concerted action by the whole profession. I lost £1600 in one year on Spiriva refills alone. So if the government takes away the practice allowance etc there is no way to absorb this. I think the payment method has got too complicated. It needs to be simplified and the lottery of Category M is NOT the answer. Cost plus was crude but it was honest. Surely a remuneration model that is based on fair remuneration for supply of goods and fees for services is not unreasonable to ask for? This would at least take away one headache. Bit by bit we should be negotiating away the headaches and getting this sorted......but who can do that for us effectively? The current bodies?

Graham Phillips, Superintendent Pharmacist

If anyone is suggesting that the GPhC are the solution to contractor stress I totally disagree. Their incompetent administration, bullying approach and the overhweening bureacracy they have imposed upon is is the problem NOT the solution.

By way of but one example: my understanding is that under the GPhC's "new" inspection scheme there is still only one single "excellent" pharmacy. How distressed and demoralised do the GPhC want contractors to be?

James Waldron, Editorial

Yes, we are gathering more information about the event and will be publishing everything we know next week. I can tell you that C+D will be in attendance.

Valentine Trodd, Community pharmacist

Thanks James, looking forward to reading all about it.

Valentine Trodd, Community pharmacist

"the regulator described how it will host an event in October to 'bring people together from inside and outside pharmacy, to consider what role different organisations and individuals can play to address the issues raised'."

James, any update on this? October is just around the corner and it's gone very quiet. One would imagine to host such an event would require a fair degree of forward planning and at this stage they should at least have a date fixed? Or was it all just hot air? Myself and many of my colleages are eagarly awaiting this discussion.

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