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'No wonder a pharmacist friend is considering throwing in the towel'

"We have to have faith and optimism that community pharmacy will flourish"

With funding cuts, increasing workloads and medicines shortages, it's understandable that some pharmacists are looking for the exit, says Numark's Jeremy Meader

“There's a little bit of pain in every transition, but we can't let that stop us from making it. If we did, we'd never make any progress at all.” – Phil Schiller

The pace of change and need to keep up with the latest developments in the world of pharmacy is staggering; we are running at speed just to keep up. But we have to believe that the outcome is positive; change is all around us, but without change, what? We have to have faith and optimism that community pharmacy will flourish.

That said, times are tough, really tough. It’s funny how easily the sentence rolls off my tongue, maybe because I hear it so very often.

For many contractors it’s difficult to know where to turn. There are so many challenges to face, decisions to make and there’s little time to even take a breath, let alone room to think about how to keep our head above water. To coin a phrase: “The struggle is real.”

Just last week I received a call from an old pharmacist friend of mine, contemplating throwing in the towel on the profession. He’s been finding it hard to cope with the funding cuts in England, however is keen to get his share of the £37.5 million sum as part of a six-month extension of the Quality Payments Scheme.

There are challenges surrounding the criteria. Granted, some are relatively straightforward. But others are going to need some investment and certainly an element of planning to achieve. There’s simply not the time or resource to research and document what is necessary to reach the 100-point benchmark.

Contractors are asking themselves: “How can I involve my team when they are already stretched as it is? I desperately need to mitigate my losses, but I’m simply sinking with the sheer volume of work I have to now do, let alone look at ways to claw what income I can from the interim funding arrangements.”

For many pharmacies there is an ongoing debate about generating income through quick wins, such as charging for services that up until now they have offered for free.

“Should I consider charging for delivering medicines or preparing monitored dosage system trays? What impact will this have on my patients?” they ponder.

It’s an uncomfortable juxtaposition that has no easy solution. We are being forced into increasingly difficult situations where decisions that ultimately impact lives and livelihoods are being made. Loyalty goes out the window and as costs continue to rise we are forced to tighten our belts. Unfortunately we are often put in an untenable situation of reducing staff hours, or worse, letting somebody go.

On top of all this – and actually a pressing issue – are the current and persistent drug shortages. Very uncomfortable and sometimes confrontational conversations are being had with prescribers and patients.

We are caught in the middle of bureaucracy as we are openly criticised for once again owing prescription items that we simply can’t get hold of, or are not able to supply, and watching as once loyal patients stride off to see if some ‘other pharmacy’ can help, muttering under their breath about “better stock management”.

And the outcome? Increasing costs as we try to source alternatives for which we know we will not get proportionate reimbursement, increased tensions between our local surgery, and peeved patients.

It’s not all doom and gloom, it mustn’t be, and support is out there. Reach out to those who can help to relinquish some of the pressure, free up time by optimising the use of your pharmacy team and pushing through the pain of progression.

Jeremy Meader is managing director of pharmacy support group Numark


Alan Nathan, HR & Training

Can't understand why all the comments here are about locums, while they are not even mentioned in this piece.

On the article itself, I qualified 54 years ago and back then and ever since it's been a story of "community pharmacy has no future", yet the sector has survived and many pharmacists have prospered. Even today, there seems to be no shortage  of buyers for independent pharmacies and prices are at a premium.  I agree that things seem pretty dire at the moment, but I wonder if in another 54 years community pharmacy will still be around and pharmacists will still be saying that it has no future? 

A Hussain, Senior Management

Not all contractors operate like this, but we are all on the receiving end of this harsh treatment from the government.

I've also had locums try to rip me off by the way.

A LOCUM, Community pharmacist

hi , could you give me some details on how locums have tried to rip you off , and by the way locums get ripped off by contractors by NOT paying them .

A Hussain, Senior Management

Look I've been a locum so I know how it goes.  I employ regular locums and pay them well (£25 an hour) and at the end of each shift.

But, someone who asks for in excess of £30 an hour plus travel time, plus travel when they know you're desperate is no better than a contractor who offers £18 an hour when there's a surplus of locums.

A LOCUM, Community pharmacist

its the way of the business world , emergency plumbers. locksmiths, car mechanics etc charge more than those booked in advance , you and i  have paid no problem as we have no other option in emergencies  , but locums get special mistreatment if they do it , i like the way you pay after the shift , unheard of in my area , always waiting and never on time and when do eventually get paid , its less than invoiced , and have had many invoices never paid at all.

A Hussain, Senior Management

That's not on.  You agree the terms and you pay what's agreed.  If you intend to pay then why bother messing about trying to hold onto a couple of hundred pounds for a few days extra?

I pay a decent rate, but wouldn't hesitate to offer a lower rate to a locum who has tried to do me in a time of trouble.  I'm fair, but I'm not a fool.

A LOCUM, Community pharmacist

i'm not talking of about £200 , more like £5000, when you book one month solid in say july and expect 'cheque in post' after you've  left your invoice in store, has happened to many locums i know 


R A, Community pharmacist

What goes around comes back around! I'm sorry not too long ago the locum rates were being cut left right and centre! Simply because the market was flushed with locums and greedy contractors felt it was okay to pay the locum miserly rates because they can get away with it! Now fast forward to 2018 the UK government have decided to use the same tactics against contractors and you want our sympathy? Very unlikely good luck!  

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