Part of The Pharmacist’s series of case studies on how stock shortages are affecting ordinary pharmacists, a Kent contractor explains the impact on their pharmacy 


Sunil Kochhar – consultant pharmacist at Regent Pharmacy in Gravesend, Kent and founder of online forum pharmacyTALK.


‘As far as independent pharmacy is concerned, we’re doomed. The shortages are grossly affecting us. As a small independent, we have to compete with the large multiples, which can buy stocks for a year where we can only manage a month. So when things are short and we can’t manage a prescription, we lose our patient list to the multiples that have the supplies.


‘If we are able to get the medication then we have to make the business decision to pay a higher price for the drug to keep the patient going, or else we let the patient take on the stress and go find the medication elsewhere. Every day we see instances where we have to pay double the price for drugs. But we’ve chosen to pay it to keep our patient list and get into negative profit.'


Personal investments


‘We’ve had to put money into the pharmacy just to keep it going, and that’s using my personal money rather than the business being viable on its own. I’ve probably put around £50-60,000 of my money in to help with the cash flow and grow the private side of the business, which is more profitable.


‘I’ve also been training in other areas. We have an aesthetic clinic that we started two years ago and I’ve trained as an advanced dermal filler practitioner. But for me to invest in my time in that we need a pharmacist in to cover me, which costs time and money. So, the pharmacy aspect isn’t becoming viable. We’re facing that dilemma at the moment.


‘We do also have a good network of community pharmacists in the area, so if we are short and desperate to fulfil any prescriptions then we help each other out. At the same time, although we’re united, we are still competitive. So why would you help someone at a disadvantage to yourself at a time when you need to grow your business?


‘There’s nothing in the system to encourage collaboration at the benefit of the patients and community. There’s nothing to allow us to do patient or person-centred work with the community because of the way our contract is and the way we work as a network of healthcare professionals. It’s just the nature of the beast.'


Patient disappointment


‘If we can’t get hold of a drug, we also try and find an equivalent and speak to local GP practices. But again, they’re tied down to clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) and price driven models even though there may be an equivalent. Then you’ve got patients going around being frustrated with community pharmacy. It looks like we’re not able to do our job.


‘The Government need to understand that without community pharmacy, the drug bill would be much higher. Community pharmacy is subsidising the NHS. We are actually keeping the NHS afloat.


‘If you look at category M and the price concessions, that explains it all. Price concessions were usually one or two lines, you look at the last three to four months and you have about 40 to 50 lines on there. I don’t know where the Government get their prices from. If they are saying, this is the price we think you should get paid because that’s what it’s valued, tell us the source so we can order it from them.


Saving money


‘Without community pharmacy, I believe manufacturers and wholesalers would hike prices up. If the NHS is already in crisis with the drug bill, imagine what it would be like without community pharmacy. If they had to do all the procurement, they would go bust.


‘What we need the Government to think about is not closures but try and think about how pharmacy can actually save money with GP appointments and with emergency supply of medication that people end up in A&E for. We can save 50-fold the amount that they’re trying to take away.’