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Keep calm … it’s only another energy crisis

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Keep calm … it’s only another energy crisis

Nick Kaye admits he is struggling to cope with the pressure of things that are outside of the control of small business owners…

 

If we take the things most of us are worried about, apart from purely pharmacy things, the cost of energy must be high on the list.

We all know that what has triggered the high prices is the abhorrent war in Ukraine, and we must remember what that country is going through, but the stress that this causing to so many people across Europe is real.

It may be that this is the goal of one of the protagonists in Ukraine, and while some measures have been put in place for domestic customers, business are going struggle to meet rising energy costs.

Give the size of the problem we need some intervention from the government to support small business. But given the essential nature of our work in the safe supply of medicines and delivering care for patients, we must be a high priority in any solution.

We also need to confidence that the support will continue for as long as the crisis continues: if any support were withdrawn this would also be catastrophic.

We also need to know when support is coming as many of us will be looking to fix energy deals and we may end up tied into prices that are higher than they should be.

High energy costs are only one part of what makes up the current cost of living crisis and it seems to be the part the government is concentrating on as they can intervene. However, it is by no means the only cost increase that we are going to have to deal with.

The general inflation rate rising is causing a headache that most analgesics cannot deal with. This has two really serious consequences. The first is an increase in interest rates. This will hit anyone that has a borrowing in the business.

It is an unseen risk: from the outside your pharmacy could be dispensing high volumes and providing all the services available to you, but if your business is financially geared for higher levels of debt it won’t matter how ‘good’ the business is. Staying viable will be a real challenge.

If this scenario fits your business, you are probably a pharmacy that is giving great service and the people of your community need you, so closing would be detrimental for business and citizens alike. This reduction of pharmacy numbers by financial attrition can’t be a good thing.

The second and more obvious issue with a rising inflation rate is the simple fact that we are going to have to pay more for our stock and more to our staff – if we want to retain them, that is. We all know that the cost of medicines is rising, and we know that we will find it increasingly hard to compete on salaries with other sectors.

Our teams are the absolute core of our businesses, and we often see them go the extra mile. To work in a community pharmacy is one of the most rewarding jobs there is, but let’s not forgot how hard it can be as well.

It’s physically hard to be stood up for nine or more hours a day. It can also be mentally hard to maintain concentration in a high-pressure environment. People’s lives can depend on us doing our jobs properly. There is often little room for error.

Given this, it isn’t unreasonable for our staff to ask for a reasonable return for the hard work they put in, especially as other sectors will soon be offering better financial terms. Given how demanding the job can be, I can see why people may choose to work in different environments.

What we would all like to do to is obvious. We would like to be able to reward our teams more, but in England we know we are locked into a fixed funding deal. This means we cannot pass any of our costs on to our customers and this fundamentally cannot be right.

We need an uplift in finding to compensate for the crisis that is hitting us all. Even if our funding were restored to its 2016 level, the government would have still achieved year-on-year efficiency savings. This is a simple course of action that the Government should consider.

 

Nick Kaye is a community pharmacist based in Newquay and vice-chair of the National Pharmacy Association. These are his personal views.

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