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'Why can't my head office understand the value of pharmacy services?'

"Service income makes it harder for head office to obfuscate the value my professional skills"

As The Supermarket Pharmacist rekindles his "love-hate relationship" with the pharmacy flu service, he wonders how his team will be able to deliver much-prized services income

It’s that time of year again, when I reinstate my love-hate relationship with the national pharmacy flu vaccination service. It’s one of those things which as a healthcare professional I find really satisfying. However, this is tinged with the reality of a massive sudden increase in workload, and a mountain of frustrations.

Frustrations such as being under-staffed, because I’m juggling staff sickness issues and new starters, together with management pressures, all on top of my number one priority – ensuring safe supply. It feels like I’m spinning plates. I’m left more stressed and asking myself: ‘Why? And what is in this for me?’

I’ve started to worry that there will come a point where I just can’t absorb all the extra pressures, and something will give. If that happens, in all honesty I will just pull back from the services element of my work to focus on core business and patient safety. The only way to avoid this is to cut out some of those pressures. As well as this, making changes to the make-up of my pharmacy team, and remuneration for my team members will be essential.

If you listen to the talk coming out of the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC), they have negotiated pharmacy funding for 2018-19, and are finally starting negotiations with the Department of Health and Social Care (DH) about a new service-based contract for 2019-20. Given the daily stress I’m under, hearing PSNC chief executive Simon Dukes mention "service creep", and the thought of me doing more services for no extra funding, is particularly frightening.

I’d love to spend more time with patients, but I don’t see how I’m going to be able to do this. It will require significant investment in my team, and the DH clearly – and counter-intuitively – feels that community pharmacy has been overpaid.

My employer is probably going to troop out the argument for additional services – that there’s been funding cuts, and a clawback on excess margin, so we’re not making as much on procurement – and all this means we need the income from new services to refill the pot.

But service income is much harder to earn. I’ll no doubt be swamped with a whole new set of targets – all adding to the stress of the job. One thing is certain though: with service income, it’s harder for the bigwigs at head office to obfuscate the value my professional skills bring to the business. I’ll certainly be totting up the income I bring in.

So while I feel professionally fulfilled providing the flu service – it's exactly what I want to be spending my time doing – I am not a charity. I know it’s a well-funded service for the business, but none of that filters down to me. If I’m lucky, I might get a nice laminated A4 sheet, congratulating me for doing a certain number of jabs.

Service creep worries me. If I’m going to be providing more services and my professional skills will be more in demand, then my employer must provide my team with support, financial recognition, and reward. A nice certificate, even one printed in colour, isn’t going to cut it.

The Supermarket Pharmacist is a pharmacy manager in a well-known supermarket chain. You can follow him on Twitter @Pharm_Super.


Benie I, Locum pharmacist

More work, more responibility, more stress, no recognition, same/less money. No thanks.





C A, Community pharmacist

The same money really is less money - because of inflation - things are more expensive this year than last dispite locum rates being static or falling...

Adam Hall, Community pharmacist

It is an interesting point of view - Head Office has probably paid for the training to provide flu (and other) services so needs to recoup that money and the bloggers suggests they should be paid additionally for the services. I don't disagree, I am just wondering how they will make it work. The other option would be for them to pay for their own training and bill H/O for providing the service. Then, at least, everyone will know how much money they are making from it

Leon The Apothecary, Student

I would think they recoup the cost quite easily through administering the aforementioned jabs. I like the idea of billing companies for providing professional services - removing the pharmacist from absolute control of the company.

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