Graham Phillips, superintendent pharmacist of the Manor Group Pharmacies, shares his concerns about the impact Brexit has had on the sector so far – and warns that there’s a perfect storm brewing
‘Ideologically, I’m against Brexit because the world is getting bigger and pharmaceutical companies are getting bigger. The idea that we can take all this on as a standalone nation is risible.
‘The decision to leave the European Union (EU) has prompted the relocation of the European Medicines Agency (EMA) to Amsterdam. It will take with it all those highly-qualified staff, but also that huge halo effect of the focus of the pharmaceutical industry that naturally exists around wherever the EMA based. The industry is a huge net contributor to our economy so to have all of that IT, research, focus and investment now moved abroad and never coming back – to what extent is that a Brexit dividend to the NHS or pharmacy?
‘We also currently fund a twenty-eighth of pro-rata costs for the EMA along with 27 other countries, but will now be faced with the cost of creating our own UK medicines agency. It’s insanity.’
Generic prices – arguably also partly as a result of the Brexit decision – have rocketed and we are spending hours just trying to source generics at all. When we can source them, we’re paying more than the NHS is paying us, so we are losing money. Take naproxen, for example. It’s one of the oldest standing generics and at the moment it’s unavailable. All sorts of things just go AWOL and there are better things for my staff to be doing than chasing generics companies, like clinical work.’
‘Unable to recruit’
Another major issue is staffing. A third of my staff are white British, a third are from Europe and a third are from the Asian subcontinents. Since the Brexit decision, getting staff has been absolutely impossible – and it’s not because we treat staff any different, they are all on the same pay scales.
Theresa May’s hostile environment is very much still in play. I lost a member of staff who was one of the best technicians we’ve ever had, never had a day off sick, but because he was [I think] three months short of 10 years continual residency, he lost his license to practise in the UK with the border agency. This, combined with the fact that EU migrants seem to have stopped coming here, has made recruitment difficult – and we just can’t get the UK staff, because they don’t seem to exist.
‘As a result, my pharmacists are having to do things that the technician support staff used to do, and that’s again taking them away from clinical activity, which is where I think they add the most value.
‘These are all aspects of the perfect storm. The concerns in terms of supply chain issues and staff are already there, they will simply multiply [when Britain leaves the European Union].’