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