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Editor's view: It’s no wonder independents are turning to private income

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Editor's view: It’s no wonder independents are turning to private income

The government is a muddled, exasperating contradiction. On one hand, it says it wants to move care out of hospitals and into local communities while at the same time refusing to properly fund community pharmacy. The PSNC hasn’t announced the outcome of its negotiations on year four of its contractual talks with the government yet and things are getting desperate.

Independents face increasing overheads against the backdrop of a cost of living crisis that could push many over the edge. They are fed up struggling to make ends meet. They are tired of being taken for granted by a government that’s unwilling to recognise that pharmacies must be central to its community-based healthcare blueprint.

And it’s not only pharmacists whose businesses are dangling over the precipice who are wondering whether it is worth continuing. One independent, Amish Patel, who runs a pharmacy in Kent and has made a fair amount of money through medical aesthetics, told me he is thinking about life after pharmacy. “If I’m being brutally honest, I don’t enjoy pharmacy as much as I used to,” he said. If enterprising pharmacists like Amish are thinking about walking away, that’s a blow to the government’s ambition of ensuring everyone, particularly hard-to-reach groups on the periphery of society, has access to good quality healthcare. 

It’s no wonder some independents are turning to private income streams. “NHS income is dire at the moment,” remarked one of the judges of this year’s Independent Pharmacy Awards. It’s fatal to rely on a government that pretends to care about community pharmacies while rolling out shallow platitudes, so why not go where the money is?

Which brings us to health secretary Stephen Barclay, who has poor form where community pharmacy is concerned. He was recently scolded by a woman for doing “bugger all” to remedy record-high ambulance waiting times. As chief secretary to the Treasury, he refused to write off £370m in government loans to help pharmacies during Covid and voted for the pharmacy funding cuts in 2016.

I imagine independents knew exactly how that woman felt.

Neil Trainis is the editor of Independent Community Pharmacist. If you have rolled out private services, get in touch with your experiences by emailing neil.trainis@1530.com

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