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‘Pharmacies will have to stop free services in the face of bankruptcy’

“Charging patients for deliveries can only be done by the big boys”

While the PSNC was right to call on contractors to stop providing free services, many patients rely on them, says The Contractor

When I first heard the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC)’s announcement calling on contractors to stop providing unfunded free services for patients, my initial thoughts were that its ongoing negotiations with the government must not be going well.

What the PSNC is saying is correct on paper – pharmacies should not be doing anything without remuneration. However, that’s easier said than done.

A lot of our patients rely on us for medicines deliveries and compliance aids. We have been doing both for years. Suddenly charging patients can only be done by the big boys – they can direct younger patients to their online services and afford to lose the elderly and complex patients to independent pharmacies.

Independents are needed by communities as we provide the ultimate personal service. With huge GP surgeries, patients no longer have a doctor they are familiar with. They increasingly rely on their community pharmacist to provide some kind of continuity of care.

But the PSNC is right to bring the issue up. The powers that be need to wake up to the fact that once pharmacies close, immense pressure will be shifted onto GP surgeries and hospitals. Us independent pharmacies may not want to stop free services, but we will have to at some point when bankruptcy is staring us in the face.

This week alone I have given other free services, such as: counselling distressed anxious patients; ordering repeat prescriptions for patients who are unable to order their own medicines; providing emergency drug supplies; syncing medicines; providing help for minor ailments (saving GPs time); and countless amounts of over-the-counter medicines advice. I’ve delivered emergency antibiotics myself after work for patients who can’t get to my pharmacy.

I feel that the PSNC is really fighting our corner. I just hope someone listens this time. If we don’t get anywhere now, we have no hope. The ultimate loss will be to our dear patients. I dread to think what will become of them if we cannot afford to be around.

The Contractor is an independent pharmacy owner in England

6 Comments

Leon The Apothecary, Student

I would love to see a fundamental change to the pharmacy business as a whole. A modernisation of practice, business, focus, and service.

What we have at the moment is a poor-fitting suit. Sure, we look reasonable in it, but it's uncomfortable, out of fashion, and the seams are likely to rip if we move too rigiously. 

Mr Anon, Community pharmacist

Allow me to offer a personal opinion.

Call me cynical, I don't really feel that PSNC is fighting our corner successfully (not to the same standard as say the BMA negotiates for it's doctors). Also, as I have mentioned in previous posts, due to the lack of unity in the sector and competitive streak that governs the business side of Pharmacy, it's unlikely anything will change. One pharmacy's loss is another's gain. That is the nature of business generally.

If we're going to see any permanent change in pharmacy, there needs to be some stronger leaders in the sector. The GPhC needs an overhaul entirely Consultations on increasing fees to cover inspection cost, the clear favouritism that surrounds FTP issues - e.g. a pharmacist put under pressure by a multiple to do MURs fraudulently claimed them and was struck off, but a big online pharmacy sells vulnerable patient data for profit and uses  questionable business tactics gets a small suspension and a fine. Just a few examples. Also, the RPS. What do they do again? They provide great resources to pharmacies for CPD and general learning but generally just seem to comment on current affairs with no real authority on anything.

The whole 'free' concept from pharmacy has gone on too long now. I fear it's happened for so long it may be impossible to remove it's image from Pharmacy as it is now the norm. I've begun to reduce our unnecessary deliveries and noticed that 9/10 patients I've contacted seem to have found a way to make it to the pharmacy or send someone on their behalf. GPs are still reducing the number of patients they see, but I have had too many patients to count ask me for a free blood pressure check and asked me to then send the results to the surgery (some do not even use our pharmacy). People asking to speak to the pharmacist has significantly increased. The queries are not always something we can assist with and we are not getting paid to consult with patients. (We have had only 2 CPCS referral since June).

Everyone is repeating the same things over and over again. Yes we know, Pharmacy is rubbish and is losing its profitability. We need change, we know. The only real way I see anyone taking notice is through a nationwide strike (seems to have worked well for many other sectors before, GPS included). But, legality aside, as a sector we probably couldn't even organise a nationwide p*** up in a brewery...
 

Angela Channing, Community pharmacist

I agree. This Contractor seems far too emotionally involved. S/he is running a business not a charity. I know this sounds harsh, but as Mr Anon points out, most people who ask for delivery, it is convenience. Maybe we should start charging a fiver like Tesco. I think 95% of people would grow legs if we all did that. The same with MDS, again, it's convenience. I am seeing more and more MDS for people in their 40s and 50s! Why? Could we offer a MAR chart for them to tick off what they take? I think our problem is we have been taught to be kind and helpful and unlike GPs and the government we don't like to say No. Well maybe we should. We might get a bit more respect.

 

I also have been asked to do BP readings, for patients because they won't let them in the surgery! But they expect me to go in a consulting room with them. I know it's not the patients fault, but again, NO ! Try it a few times people, it feels really good! OK, one or two hurt feelings, so what, they'll live.  Good opportunity to sell some BP machines! And yes, people have been buying them!

 

As for the author of this article, I would say to them, in the nicest way possible, put down the Guardian, and pick up a business or economics book. The first paragraph on running a business will state you do it to make a profit! One contractor on here called me heartless when we had this similar discussion a year or two back. Well, maybe so, but he will be the one with the ulcer and the grey hair from the stress of whether the retired Jones' at Number 30, with 2 posh German cars on the drive got their ramipril in time for their long weekend away in the caravan!  (pre-Covid!) 

sunil maini, Community pharmacist

Totally agree with all you have said.With a second phase expected,time to let HMG wonder how things would be without pharmacies open.Do not necessarily think we need to strike-even though I would love that.The problem will be asking staff to work and put themselves and their families at risk when they have been given no thanks.Oh and some financial reward would be appreciated,whilst their mates watched Netflix!

sunil maini, Community pharmacist

Totally agree.Pushing against an open door when talking to contractors.Wish Sunak had come to me for flu jab-his ears would still be burning.Controversial comment coming up-is he not giving us monies we earned because his father was/is currently a pharmacist,and does not want to appear biased?It appears that we are still last on the list to get what our staff deserve!

Chemical Mistry, Information Technology

Sounds very much like Reena B

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