“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