Community Pharmacy in Crisis

Several years ago (2013) I wrote a blog called ‘dispensing on the Titanic’. I have to admit that I never expected community pharmacy to be so resistant to change and that the government left it so long to act. But it is here and now and the impact is larger than we might have expected.

Community pharmacy is in crisis – there is no two ways about it. The drop in income is significant. The change to a more clinically focussed, professional retail healthcare service has not happened.  The NHS commissioning has slowed or gone into reverse. Local co-operation is struggling. And what’s more we are still not prepared for change.

All in all it is a disaster. But it doesn’t have to be. At last every community pharmacy has got the message – change or go out of business – there is little doubt about this now. There is no saviour waiting in the wings and vote grabbing promises mean very little in a country that just doesn’t have the money to fund everything.

It is down to us – that is the only thing for certain. It has to start now – we need to invest before things get impossible to change. And we have to be fast – driving new income streams is the most important thing.

  • Premises – we do have to consider the look and feel of our premises – it is not about nice shelves, but do we look and feel like a professional clinical retail healthcare environment.
  • Staff – are we dressed properly, engaging and informative? Are we moving from being reactive to proactive?
  • Products – are we looking at products that differentiate us?
  • Services – are we delivering services that people want and need?
  • Marketing – are we reaching out to the right customers who want our services and products?
  • Training – are we able to access the right training and experience to deliver different services
  • Co-operation – are we able to build together, sharing some experiences and expertise and the will to be a commissionable force within primary care?

Every month we bleed a little more. In 2013 we said it was ‘Now or Never’ now it really is.


5 thoughts on “Community Pharmacy in Crisis

  1. All of your points resonate in the current climate – but change can be a painful process.
    Some pharmacists will cling to the exisiting model thinking that they can make the margins where others can’t.
    Some pharmacists will already be on the journey you describe and developing their services – again margins here might be thin and utilisation sporadic – but they are the pioneers.

    But the key in all of this lies in the phrase – Are we moving from being reactive to proactive?

    I think all pharmacy teams need to reflect on that one – or how else can we prove our worth?

    1. Darren you are absolutely right – community pharmacy can no longer be reactive, but must be more proactive and start taking some calculated risks. We can no longer solely focus on the NHS core contract and have to think a little harder and reach out a little more

  2. I worry a significant number of our professional sector are so resistant they will never change – the key for the rest of us is to stop worrying about those and work with the ones that want to embrace the future.

  3. I left community pharmacy practice in 2002 after 25 years, the ship was already on its course. The government have always had a free professional advisory service for the public from community pharmacies and weren’t likely to change that significantly (England particularly, the other countries seem to be faring slightly better) and squeezing the supply contract remuneration has also made it difficult not to operate as a dispensing machine. CP additionally suffers from the perception by a cohort of other healthcare professionals of being retail shopkeepers where maximising sales trumps providing professional advice without a sale.

    So… I agree with the blog suggestions and pharmacists in all branches of the profession need to be visible and demonstrating how we add value at every opportunity.

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