Part of The Pharmacists series of case studies on how stock shortages are affecting ordinary pharmacists, an independent contractor explains the impact on his pharmacy in Scunthorpe

Hitesh Patel, independent contractor, Unity Pharmacy, Scunthorpe

‘I probably have about 10 to 20 lines of branded products that are unavailable in my pharmacy at the moment. Suppliers have started imposing a quota and if we say it’s not enough then they won’t give us any more until we can prove it, which means sending data from our patient medication records.

'Can you imagine all this hassle and the time taken to procure all of these products on a daily basis? We must be spending at least an hour each day trying to get lines that are short.

‘One example is Azarga eyedrops - for the past nine months to a year, we just can’t get hold of it when we need it. I’ve got about 10 patients on it through the month, sometimes it comes through but mostly it doesn’t, so at any given time we have approximately six owings for that.

'This is on quota as well, so we are continuously applying to the manufacturer to get it. They only send in ones and twos and by the time they come in, we need more and have to send the proof all over again.

‘It’s demoralising and time consuming. What’s worse is other places like the multiples seem to have this product readily available. Patients get fed up and so the GP surgery rings the multiple across the road and they say they’ve got plenty of Azarga. We then lose prescriptions.

'It might not just be the one item on there, it could be six. It gets very frustrating when you’ve done your best to get products and then you lose prescriptions because of the way the supply chain is set up - the problem is beyond our control.

‘The generic shortages are something totally different and are causing a huge, huge loss of income in terms of margin. It’s been terrible - our bottom line has been totally decimated.

‘I’ve had to put £50,000 into the pharmacy just to keep it going - I had to borrow money from my family and I’m ashamed to say that because obviously it’s the last thing you want to do. But if I didn’t have access to that money we would have been in a really serious situation.

‘To futureproof myself I’ve also had to renegotiate my commercial loan - I only had seven years left but I’ve had to extend that to 12 so that my monthly repayments are reduced and borrow a little bit more.

‘My pharmacy dispenses huge numbers of prescriptions, we’re not a small pharmacy, so if I’m struggling then you can imagine everyone else around the country is really struggling as well.’