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How the cuts are affecting me: ‘Community pharmacy has changed, but it hasn’t died’

29 Sep 2017

Part of The Pharmacist’s series of case studies on how the funding cuts are affecting ordinary pharmacists, a Bristol contractor explains what effect they are having on his business

Chris Howland-Harris – owner, Ashgrove Pharmacy, Bristol

‘We have seen a reduction in net profit of approximately £2,000 per month since December 2016. We managed to recoup a bit more than £4,000 from the QPS.

‘However, an equally big effect has been on morale in the profession. This has fallen badly, because of the impression that the DH is disinvesting in pharmacy.

‘We haven’t replaced a dispenser who retired last year, which reduced dispensing staff hours by 17%. We haven’t given a pay rise for 18 months, but we did pay a QPS bonus of a week’s pay to our staff, and have reduced our own income from the business.

‘Another impact is the uncertainty. I find it hard to plan and am reluctant to invest as I can’t say if I would be able to repay the investment over five or 25 years because of the uncertain funding.

‘The impact has been worse than expected because more cuts have come. Pressures on clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) mean they have switched to branded generics, which take out profit that is not accounted for by the global sum. The PSNC recognises branded generics and generic shortages as a problem. It has been raising the issue with the DH for a number of years.

There’s also the shortage of many generic drugs where the prices we have to pay don’t match the Drug Tariff prices or even the concession prices. Someone, either manufacturer or wholesaler or both, is making a killing by restricting supply and selling £1.50 boxes of generic tablets for £120.

‘However, I’m confident about the future because a good business is always a good business. I wouldn’t want to have a 100-hour pharmacy at the moment because of the high overhead.

‘We have gone through periods of instability before, such as the loss of resale price maintenance, the introduction of 100-hours pharmacies and other exemptions, the new pharmacy contract and the introduction of category M.

‘My staff have predicted the death of both community pharmacy and independent pharmacy. Pharmacy has changed but it certainly hasn’t died.

‘Even if this transition period is a bumpy road, we will get there.’

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