Have you checked your bank statement lately? Making small changes can add up to big savings on everyday bills, suggests pharmacy ower Noel Wicks

One of the main concerns for community pharmacies in the current climate is how to combat the increasing costs of running a pharmacy business against a backdrop of static, if not reduced, funding.

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Workload pressure isn't going to change, but how we work with it can, suggests Noel Wicks.

The recent media spotlight on workplace pressures in the pharmacy must have resonated with many in our sector. It seems almost inevitable that these pressures continue to rise, with increasing numbers of scripts to dispense and services to provide set against a backdrop of reduced funding. It looks like the pressure on businesses, individuals, systems and teams to perform will only increase.

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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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