Patients risk losing valuable free services including prescription collection, delivery and MDS in the wake of “clueless” £170m cuts to the sector, a Numark survey reveals.

Responses from members show 62% are ‘likely’ or ‘highly likely’ to stop offering the additional assistance, while 57% said they were ‘highly likely’ to cut staffing costs to help plug the hole left by the budget reduction.

One respondent said: “We will become busy fools if we continue to provide free services.

“Regrettably, it's the patient who will suffer once again as pharmacies make further efficiencies on behalf of a clueless DH and PSNC.”

Another said: “We will stop delivery since we won’t be able to afford the staff.

“Between van costs, fuel, staff, etc. we spend about £12-15k per year offering an extensive delivery service. In a rural area such as ours, this is vital for many elderly patients who would otherwise have no way of collecting important medication.”

Staff and locum costs are the main focus for savings in independent pharmacists as a way of dealing with the reduction to contractual funding.

Capital expenditure projects are also being postponed with most respondents citing refits as the first projects to face the axe.

The Department of Health’s technological solutions have not been embraced by Numark members, with 73% saying they are ‘highly unlikely’ to adopt a hub and spoke model and 54% ‘highly unlikely’ to adopt a click and collect model.

Several commented on the irony that click and collect was at odds with increasing NMS and MUR numbers.

John D’Arcy, managing director of Numark, said: “The survey results make for stark reading and demonstrate the invidious position most contractors are in.

“Our members don’t need me to say that now is not the time to cut staff or cancel investment in their businesses, they know their situation and have given these matters plenty of thought.

“However, I would urge that contractors review how they can increase their income before they make cuts that will weaken their competitive situation.

"The ultimate loser is, of course, the patient—and the most vulnerable ones at that.”