It is a turbulent time for British business. We still don’t know what will happen with Brexit. The planning for a potential ‘no deal’ requires significant management time and, in many cases, investment in stock, warehousing and changes to systems and processes.
The regulatory burden is substantial and, if your business model happens to include retail outlets, you’re also facing attack on other fronts – unprecedented change, declining footfall and a need to develop digital solutions.
Community pharmacy is not immune to these external market factors. Like all businesses supporting local communities, we face numerous challenges, but we also have additional issues to deal with, such as the Falsified Medicines Directive (FMD), the vagaries of category M, and a contract that is in urgent need of reform.
We provide a unique and vital service to the community as a major contractor to the NHS. Thousands of people rely on ready access to our healthcare professionals every day without appointment. The continued high level of business rates makes the marginally economical service of dispensing prescriptions even more challenging.
Government funding cuts to community pharmacy have prompted us to tackle market changes head-on with around 70 Lloydspharmacy closures. Our competitors have now acknowledged that keeping their bricks-and-mortar sites open is becoming more and more challenging.
We are being forced to remove vital services from communities at a time when our NHS is under more and more pressure from people who are living longer, and people who have long-term conditions.
We urgently need to reform this outdated taxation to provide accessible healthcare as well as to preserve our urban landscapes. Let’s not forget that when retailers go out of business, they pay no tax at all. How does that benefit the economy?
Toby Anderson is chief executive of Lloydspharmacy’s parent company McKesson UK