The pressures of independent community pharmacy could well lead to a mass exodus, says an anonymous contractor

The news that paid-for medicines use reviews (MURs) have been capped to 200 as part of pharmacy’s interim funding deal will no doubt have driven a stake into the heart of my fellow contractors.

With no idea what will happen to the funding for the further 200 MURs we have historically been reimbursed for, there is much uncertainty within the sector. Added to the worries of Brexit and you could be forgiven for wondering why anyone would be stupid enough to be a contractor in 2019, plunging into the deep dark depths of their overdraft.

Being a contractor now feels something like this. Waking up at 3am wondering how you are going to pay the bills. When you should be planning to retire, you are having to put in more work than when you started the business. Your staff don’t understand that you are personally trying to stop the business going under. Suppliers are banging on the door for payment. I am very concerned that one day I will see a news story about someone for whom it has all become too much.

There are so many pharmacies up for sale. Meanwhile, staff are preparing themselves for redundancy. They are having to do more and more work and I hate having to say no to them when they work so hard. Patients are demanding the same service they’ve always enjoyed even though we have fewer resources.

If we don’t deliver, they will be off to the next pharmacy. Each script is a lifeline to keep us open, although only if it’s not costing us to dispense, such is the growth in concessionary items. Did I mention the trauma of trying to source drugs? Morale is so low that more and more people are leaving the profession. Is it really worth the stress? Forget Brexit, this is ph-exit.

In comparison, GPs have been blessed with a five-year contract, furnished with an indemnity contract for all staff. Where did it all go wrong for community pharmacy?

Firstly, there is no unity in our leadership. Various factions of the profession seem to be doing their own thing. It’s time to sacrifice vanity and come together for the sake of the profession. Pharmacy is always late to the game, eager to pick up the crumbs after the cake has long been eaten. If the profession is to survive, then this needs to change.

Secondly, there has been no change in leadership for many years. The same people have been rattling round the various high-profile committees for years. It’s like a merry-go-round in pharmacy politics. If you can’t get in with one board, try your luck at another. When you get there, remember not to allow change. Turkeys don’t vote for Christmas.

Thirdly, pharmacists themselves have little understanding of how the sector is funded. The absence of education on the drug tariff is a detriment to the profession. I’m pretty sure some of the pharmacists I have met do not even know what the drug tariff is.

Why would you want to carry on working in a sector that has so little self-respect? Personally, I’m voting ph-exit.