Is pharmacy as a business becoming unsustainable, asks Nick Hunter, LPC chief officer, Community Pharmacy Nottinghamshire

Readers will no doubt be aware that the funding cuts to community pharmacy fees are now starting to bite, not least because of the media coverage of LloydsPharmacy’s decision to close 190 pharmacies across its estate. It is not just the cuts to core funding that are causing difficulties for community pharmacies – there are several other factors affecting cash flow which ultimately increase costs, as they generally require some form of additional loan to make ends meet.

Contributors to cash flow problems, aside from the usual such as calendar effects, include no cheaper stock obtainable (NCSO), brand switching and stock shortages.

These issues are so damaging, because the pharmacy will often have to spend more than they are reimbursed for the medication in order to obtain it, or at least get much less discount or margin than the NHS assumes and deducts from their account.

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If I had travelled back in time to the beginning of last year and told my past self what the next twelve months would bring, I suspect that I wouldn’t have quite believed my ears.

While I might actually be able to accept that time travel had been invented, the story of what happened to community pharmacy last year, particularly in England, would seem like a pretty disturbing Grimm’s fairy tale – 2017 was just unbelievable.

This time last year, I would have though it beyond belief that the community pharmacy sector would find itself coming to blows with the Department of Health in a court of law.

That LloydsPharmacy would be selling or closing 190 of its branches would also seem impossible, as might the introduction of delivery charges. The relaxation of supervision being discussed behind closed doors would be no less concerning.

2017 was an eventful year, there’s no doubt about it, but I wonder if I time travelled again and a future version of myself visited me from 2019 – what might he have to report?

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Proposed legislation will safeguard pharmacy professionals from prosecution and bring an approach that is more unified with other healthcare professions, says Noel Wicks

It’s been a long time coming, but finally we have a legal defence from criminal sanctions for pharmacists and staff who make inadvertent dispensing errors. It’s been more commonly referred to as ‘decriminalisation’ or ‘dispensing error defence’, but whatever term you use, it represents a major change for pharmacy.

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Pharmacy teams are well placed to help smokers quit for good this New Year, says PAGB’s John Smith

Here we are again in December. It’s time to reflect on the year we’ve just had and think about all of the success and learnings we can take with us into 2018. For most people, New Year comes with resolutions, and health related ones, such as giving up smoking and joining the gym, are usually high on the list. We make these promises to ourselves on 1 January when our motivation levels are high, but as time passes, it’s just not that easy to keep them.

 

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Mike Smith puts the world to rights…

Following on from my comments about the excellent strategy for Scotland produced by chief pharmacist Rose Marie Parr, I have just returned from a trip to Scotland, and had the good fortune to meet Rose Marie in Edinburgh while I was there. The strategy is well worth a read – do visit gov.scot to have a look.

visited several community pharmacists during my trip and it was encouraging to see some aspects of the strategy already in place. Key is a break away from the obsession with remuneration and thinking more closely about identifying and developing services along with normal practice.

Of course, the financial challenges are just the same north of the border as in England, but they have looked at ways of working with the Scottish government to move forward in the face of these difficulties. To see the minor ailment service and the chronic medication service in operation demonstrates to me the way forward in England, but so far we’ve heard nothing but talk. I understand that Keith Ridge claimed at the All Party Pharmacy Group that CCGs are decommissioning minor ailment schemes because “things have moved on”. Well, watch this space, I say.

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