community pharmacies face closure ’unless they adapt’
by Neil TraiNis in Mauritius
stark warnings about community pharmacy’s future in the UK have been issued at an industry conference that heard about the impact of stringent government efficiency measures.
Salim Jetha, the chief executive of Avicenna, told a delegation of pharmacists, pharmaceutical company executives and pharmacy leaders in Mauritius last week that independent pharmacists will be the first to be driven out of existence as ministers continue with plans to cut funding to the tune of £170 million for 2016/17.
“This is the biggest challenge we are facing over the next 12 months, once we know what the details are. Make no mistake, there are really tough times ahead,” Jetha said, pointing to job cuts in community pharmacy as well as extra strain on general practice and A&E as a consequence of cuts to pharmacy funding.
“Like most of you here, I own my own business and it hurts a lot. What hurts me more is my staff. I have seven of them. If you take 3,000 pharmacies, that equates to more than 15,000 jobs that are at stake, which is more than BHS (British Home Stores) and Port Talbot (Tata Steel).
“It makes me boil with anger. It is a disgrace. What’s more, doctors, dentists, nurses, cleaners, in fact everyone who works in the NHS, [they all] get a pension. We don’t.
“What I find incredible is we constantly have to justify to deaf ears the role we can play in the NHS. Fifteen per cent of GP visits can be saved by minor ailments and other pharmacy interventions. Three per cent of A&E visits can be saved by pharmacy at a fraction of the cost.
“We, especially in the independent sector, have the ability to adapt quickly to the broken needs. But independents don’t have deep pockets to play a waiting game, so are likely to be the first exiters.”
The strong words from Jetha at the Westin Turtle Bay resort were followed by equally harsh warnings from Ash Soni, president of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, at the Avicenna conference, which ran from last Friday (27) to Thursday (2).
Soni told pharmacists they would go out of business if they failed to focus on extending their service model beyond their prescription and retail offering. “If we do not see this journey from where we are today, moving to quality-based delivery, you will fail,” he said.
“If you think you can survive through the next three to five years delivering in the way you deliver today around transactions, you will fail.”
“If you are to succeed, you need to recognize how you will adapt to deliver more clinical practice, more clinical care, better use of medicines, from your pharmacy,” he added.
“If you can’t do that, think about employing a young pharmacist who will do it for you. If you don’t want to do it, think about whether you want to continue to own your pharmacy.
“The world is going to change around you. Your opportunity is to be part of the change.”
The government’s cuts to pharmacy funding have caused consternation within pharmacy. Despite a large petition which amassed 1.8 million signatures and was recently delivered to Downing Street by the National Pharmacy Association and All Party Pharmacy Group aimed at stopping the cuts, there is a feeling within pharmacy that the government will not be budged.
“We know it will happen. We know, in some shape or form, that £170 million will come out in October,” Soni said. “It’s not an option. NHS England have been given a budget of £2.63 billion for payment for community pharmacy for the con- tract. That’s it. If they can find other ways to save the £170 million, great. But it’s very unlikely.”