Prescription charges are putting pharmacists in an ethically impossible situation – and I think we need to ask, what are the moral standards of pharmacy in the cost-of-living crisis, and what do we do for those who can't afford their prescriptions?

Inflation is already at 10.1%. We are already seeing people who have jobs, and who are single, are struggling, let alone those who have a family.

If it rises even higher, heaven forbid, and people cannot pay for their prescription, what will we do?

I spent quite a bit of time thinking about a scenario where a person is there in front of me, they need the medication and they tell me: I can't pay, I've got kids, we need to go shopping, and this prescription is £9.35.

What are the options that we as a pharmacy team would be willing to take? We can't defraud the NHS. Would we be willing or able to just let somebody just go without? This moral question fills us with much anxiety.

I think it would really break us.

We would think: what’s the point of me being here? I just turned somebody away that needed our help.

One of the things that we've thought about, as a team, is looking at how we set aside or save money for people who can't pay for their prescription charges. Maybe we can match up to 50% or something – if they’ve got £5, we could pay the remaining £4.95?

As a pharmacy, we've always had some money aside. Sometimes patients will give us money to buy biscuits or sweets, or we put money aside for a meal, birthdays or some social engagement.

But we would rather be the pharmacy that sits down for a Christmas meal sharing a cheap KFC bucket, looking back and thinking: you know what, at least we helped those patients that couldn't afford their medications.

The questions still remain: who would you do it for, and when would you do it, and how do you make sure it is fair?  Also, how long for?

We’re still talking about it, we haven’t decided, and I certainly want to hear more pharmacy voices in this space. I want to hear what other pharmacists will do and are doing.

Because we are the part of the healthcare system that unfortunately, is straddled with collecting this levy, on behalf of the healthcare system, and this levy is an unjustifiable barrier.

When you’ve got supermarkets talking about the fact that they will hold down prices so that people can get fed, what will pharmacies be doing so that people can get their medication?

We’ve got to have the same mindset that we had during the pandemic, of thinking: community pharmacies will be taking on roles far beyond what would happen in a normal experience.

This is our social contract; we never let down or leave our communities behind.

While we can’t keep helping people out of our own altruism. It just isn’t sustainable, and it isn’t good for the profession.

I hope we're having conversations with the government to say, don't put pharmacy in this position.

Because this would be one of the reasons that people would leave the profession. If you are in that position, you will walk away, because it’s not just going to cost you – it’s going to break you. I will sadly be one of the first.

Ade Williams is a pharmacist at Bedminister Pharmacy in Bristol.