Part of the Pharmacist’s series on how the funding cuts are affecting ordinary pharmacists, a Belfast contractor explains the impact they are having on his business
Terry Maguire – owner of Maguire Pharmacy in Belfast, Northern Ireland.
‘The cuts in Northern Ireland are slightly different to those in England but they are still having a significant impact.
‘We’ve had the English tariff imposed on us, whereas in the past we used to be linked to the Scottish tariff. The previous system was more generous and supportive in terms of funding.
‘We also have the difficulty that we don’t have a new contract. We don’t have a contract that allows for the driving of services through pharmacies in the same way as it applies in Scotland, England and Wales.
‘Therefore, it’s more difficult for the current administration to push funding streams through pharmacies because there isn’t the infrastructure to do that using the purchase profit obtained in category M. So we’re in a particularly difficult position at the minute.
A catch 22 situation
‘As a pharmacy, we’ve been experiencing somewhere in the region of a 10% reduction in overall profits since February/March this year.
‘That decrease in profits is hitting us in two main areas. Firstly, making sure loans are repaid is the first big challenge, even if just repaying them in a tiny way. The second thing is retention of staff.
‘We’ve taken a very serious look at staff within the pharmacy and the need to perhaps rationalise staff to accommodate the reduction in profitability. The big problem is if you get rid of staff, you can’t keep up the level of service you would hope to provide. It’s a catch 22.
‘As a result, I have made a strong commitment to keep my staff. I’ve invested heavily over the years in terms of training and expertise and I’ve got to a point where it would be completely destructive for me to let go of members of staff because I’ve invested so heavily in them. So I’m going to let the thing ride and just take the hit.
‘Otherwise delivering new services – when the mechanism to do so finally arrives – becomes even more difficult if you cut staff.
‘We also have a further complication in the fact that we don’t have a local administration. The assembly does not sit at the minute, and because of that, major decisions cannot be made in terms of pharmaceutical contracts and changes.
‘It’s a big problem. It’s impossible for us to plead our case. We’ve organised petitions to focus on the fact that this is threatening the pharmacy network.
‘Moving forward, it’s obvious to me that pharmacy needs to have a contract within Northern Ireland. I believe we need a new contract that reflects an emphasis on services. If we don’t, we run the huge risk of the Government completely side-lining the community pharmacy network.’