Funding cuts: vulnerable patients 'ultimate losers' say pharmacists

Analysis

Funding cuts: vulnerable patients 'ultimate losers' say pharmacists

Almost two-thirds of pharmacies are ‘likely’ or ‘highly likely’ to stop prescription collection, delivery, MDS and other ‘free’ services they provide in light of proposed funding cuts, according to a survey of Numark members.

A Numark member 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. Eighty per cent of respondents said that they were likely or highly likely to reduce existing staffing costs with a further 83 per cent likely or highly likely to reduce their locum cover and/or fees.

The majority of pharmacies will be reviewing incomings as well as outgoings, with 59 per cent saying they were highly likely to work on increasing script volume while half were highly likely to increase income from services. However, several noted that this would be difficult to achieve with reduced staffing.

Technology proposals snubbed

Numark members are not keen on the Department of Health's technology proposals, with 73 per cent saying they were highly unlikely to adopt a hub and spoke model and 54 per cent 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.

Capital expenditure projects are being postponed in the wake of proposed funding cuts, with most respondents citing refits as the first projects to face the axe. One member said: “We actually had plans for an extensive refit drawn up in the autumn which will have to be shelved. This is a shame as we currently dispense in an area unfit for the volume of scripts and number of services we provide.” Staff training and advertising budgets are also targets for saving money.

Numark managing director John D’Arcy (pictured) 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.

“Inevitably, owner managers will increase their own hours so they can reduce their outgoings in the form of locums and other staff. With many already working way in excess of a standard working week, this cannot be good for them, their families or the long-term viability of their business.”

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