These are uncertain times for pharmacy and, as one of our highest business costs is wages, it is natural to look at staffing levels. However, reducing workforce numbers puts yet more pressure on each team member and means that less time is available to deliver services, develop new revenue streams and stand out for customer care.
As consumers expect more and digital distribution of medicines looms, it has never been more important to demonstrate that community pharmacy can provide an experience that cannot be obtained online. Customers want to consistently receive superb service, have a positive interaction with the person serving them and trust the advice they receive. This does not happen accidently; a great customer experience comes from having an engaged and informed team who do what they say they will do, have a great attitude and know their customers and products.
In addition, there are important revenue streams in the NHS contract that must be achieved and protected for future sustainability. Most contractors receive at least 90% of their revenue from the NHS, so it should be a priority to ensure that service quality and delivery meets expectations and reduce the risk of further lost revenue.
The new NHS England Quality Payments Scheme provides an opportunity to retain at least £6,400 per year and is imperative for all contractors to achieve, not just for the money, but to demonstrate that the sector is able to deliver against key these quality markers. Delivering Advanced Services, patient safety activities, becoming a Healthy Living Pharmacy (HLP) and engaging in the digital agenda requires focus, good planning and capability.
It is critical to have the right people doing the right things with the required skills and attitude. It is not wise to cut the workforce at a time when they are anxious about their future. Asking them to do more may result in them being disengaged or even disruptive. Poor customer service, errors, absence, conflict and lost opportunity could be the result. Now is the time to invest in your people to get the skill mix right and empower individuals to do their best.
So, in these times of challenge, cutting the workforce should not be a quick fix to reducing costs. A more strategic approach is to consider where to focus to protect NHS revenue, manage non-personnel costs and reduce waste while looking for opportunities to grow the business and decrease reliance on NHS revenue. Involve your team in this; they will have lots of ideas and will feel included. Define what capabilities are required to deliver growth. Most importantly, reflect that you, as a leader, will define the tone of employee performance and you may need to change what you do and how you do it.