Community Pharmacy: Living the dream and facing reality

A community pharmacy is an independent contractor of the NHS. I would like to explore that a little more. To me it simply means that you have set up a business and risked your cash and livelihood on the success of that business. It is an important thing – a lot of cash and a lot of risk, but how independent are you and do you think like a business?

Dependency. Perhaps we should really call you and independent dependent community pharmacy, as in reality, most are heavily dependent on the NHS contract. So for many it is the hand that feeds you; the organisation that drives your income and therefore the return on the investment that you have made. Usually when a majority employer says jump – we ask ‘how high’ – we deliver ‘added value’ to that employer to ensure that they ‘keep sweet’. It is not about rolling over, but maintaining an adult relationship. So when that employer issues a ‘white paper’ – the equivalent to saying jump – it is frankly unbelievable to say no. There would usually be some negotiation, some compromise, some hope.

So now that employer is playing hardball and we wonder why? So let’s get the QP done and the NUMSAS and open up sensible lines of communication. Turn this into a learning experience and move on. Perhaps an opening gambit of ‘where do you want community pharmacy to be in two or three years’, ‘how can we work together on this’ even, ‘how about this as an idea’. Letting you all into a little secret – the Pharmacy integration fund – it is supporting those that want to engage – just watch it and wonder whether you could have had that nationally.

Independency. So we have a whole range of minor contracts with individual members of the public. They come in and get a product or a service and put some money in the till. That’s interesting! A business would be asking – ‘do I have enough minor contracts and are these with the right people’, ‘do I fulfil their needs, offer them excellent service, get them talking about me’. Believe me, the safety and security of any business is dependent on the breath of contracts they hold – it is unwise to put all of your eggs in one basket.

I get a little tired about some of the reasons:

  • My customers do not want to pay for things – then you have the wrong customers – find some new ones.
  • My customers do not avail themselves of the services that I offer – do they know about it and are you offering these services to the people that want them
  • I don’t have sufficient footfall – then use a little marketing or go to where the people are.

This is changeable – that is my point – every business thrives when it seeks out new opportunities and new contracts. You are an independent business so think about it and do it.


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