Business confidence up, but still negative

Business confidence among pharmacists has risen for the second consecutive year, but is still in negative territory overall, according to new research from Lloyds Bank.  

Pharmacists confidence rating in the 2019 Lloyds Bank Commercial Banking Healthcare Confidence Index - an annual survey of GPs, dentists and pharmacists on the outlook for their businesses - is -17, up six points from last year (and up 24 points from the -41 recorded in 2017 in the aftermath of the cuts announcement. The 2019 figure is the second highest recorded since the index began in 2011.

Among respondents in the survey, 94 per cent said they are looking to grow their business over the next five years, either organically (51 per cent) or by acquisition (43 per cent). And 60 per cent of pharmacists expect profits to increase in the next year, up from 48 per cent in last year’s survey.

However, the signs of pharmacy's long term financial concerns are still evident. Despite encouraging positivity around short-term profits and improvements to patient care fuelled by roll out of digital innovations like EPS, 79 per cent of pharmacists expect financial pressures to increase over the next five years, a small improvement on last year (84 per cent). Some 26 per cent expect profits to fall in the next year. Furthermore, 68 per cent see internet pharmacies (Distance Selling Pharmacies, DSPs) as a risk. More worrying for long term strategy, opinion is split over whether ongoing reforms to primary care represent an opportunity (44 per cent) or a threat (47 per cent).

Ian Crompton, head of healthcare banking services at Lloyds Bank Commercial Banking, says: “It’s reassuring to see that both long and short-term confidence have continued to recover, particularly since pharmacists’ were understandably shaken by the funding cuts announced in 2016. By understanding the challenges and opportunities pharmacists face, we can provide the knowledge, insights and products they need. We’ll be by the side of these businesses as they pursue growth, ensuring the provision of essential services in years to come.”

The Index, which measures overall business confidence using a blended figure of short-term and long-term projections, found confidence across the primary care sector has increased from -21 to -16 this year – the highest level since 2011. Short-term confidence has always been more positive than long-term, and is now +21 against -53 – a difference of 74 points. Dentistry is the most optimistic profession in the primary healthcare sector for the seventh year running, with an overall rating of -3. GPs remain the least confident, on -28. 

Research undertaken by Lloyds Bank Commercial Banking. Total sample size was 447 primary care professionals (143 dentists, 149 pharmacists and 155 GPs). The research was conducted via online survey and face to face interviews. Fieldwork was undertaken between November 2018 and January 2019. 

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