Part of the Pharmacist’s series on how the funding cuts are affecting ordinary pharmacists, a Northern Irish contractor explains the impact they are having on his business
Eoghan O’Brien, independent contractor, Bannside Pharmacy, Ballymena, Northern Ireland
‘It seems as if we’re running to a standstill at the minute. The cash flow is considerably less than it was. We’re dispensing medicines at a loss, yet we still have all the same overheads.
‘Staff wages are the biggest overhead and they are going up. There are minimum wage increases all the time and pension payments are mandatory as well now, so that’s also an increased cost. It’s something I’m very happy to do for my staff, but it is concerning at the minute.
‘Any business needs to be able to plan towards the future and we’re really trying to build on our service provision, but that requires resources to effectively manage – it’s the same old story of let’s just save money in the short term, which is going to cost more in the longer-term.
‘There’s a lot of talk about the shift in healthcare at the moment towards helping patients manage their condition better, to identify causes and even reduce dependency on some medicines by empowering them to make the right lifestyle choices. I’m fully behind and excited about that, but again that all takes time and resources. I just feel a bit stuck.
‘It is three quarters of the way through our financial year and I’m looking at more than a 50% drop in our net profit – the worst I’ve experienced yet. I’m just hoping the situation changes. I don’t want to decrease the quality of what I’m doing here – or let the staff be impacted.
‘At the end of the day, I’m prepared to take a bit of a personal cut instead of having to pass it on to the staff but I really hope it doesn’t come to me having to reduce their hours or renegotiate salaries. I’m trying to not let that be the case because they are tremendous, they work really hard and they do a great job. So I suppose I’m just trying to absorb it.
‘Trying to survive’
‘I’ve got a reasonably good counter trade so I’ll be looking to increase that because that’s one part of the business that is not being impacted. We specialise in offering a range of supplements as well, which is growing all the time, so we’ve got a niche market there.
‘I have got a bit of potential for growing prescriptions here too but I wonder if I should bother – it seems to be costing me more to do that. The single biggest problem is that pharmacists are not getting paid for the costs of the medicines that we’re actually giving out. It would be great for us to be getting funding for providing additional services, which would improve the health and wellbeing of patients and create much bigger savings in the longer term, but that’s a separate issue.
‘If the current funding continues, there will be businesses that do not survive. Fortunately, our overheads a bit lower than some other people when it comes to rent and mortgages. Some people are in a very difficult position with that, but I would certainly have to radically rethink how we do things and maybe offer private health services, rather than rely on the funding from the NHS.’