Business confidence among community pharmacists in England has fallen to a record low, according to the results of the annual Lloyds Bank Commercial Banking Healthcare Confidence Index.
Published on 6 March 2016, the data reveal that short-term confidence fell from its highest level ever at +32 points in 2015 to its lowest ever level of -5 in 2016. Long-term confidence also fell from -68 in 2015 to -78 last year.
When both confidence levels are taken into account, the overall business confidence across the community pharmacy sector dropped 27 points between 2015 and 2016 to -41.
The erosion of confidence is linked to the spending cuts hanging over the sector — 92% of pharmacists told Lloyds that they expect financial pressures to increase over the next five years. Just over a third (36%) predict profit increases in the next five years compared with almost three quarters (73%) in 2016.
But despite this lack of confidence, 51% believe the pharmacy reforms offer professional opportunity and the same proportion hope to grow their businesses; 28% already have expansion plans, the index report shows.
“Pharmacy owners who increase the range of services that they offer and improve their interaction with GPs will reap the benefits, as will the patients they serve,” the report says. “Some GP services can be better delivered by pharmacists, and the current climate will push them to work closer together than ever before.”
Ian Crompton, head of healthcare banking services at Lloyds Bank Commercial Banking Group, says the results reflect a “shift in sentiment reflecting the anticipated cash flow issues that have arisen from the new funding settlement”, adding that it will be “interesting” to see how attitudes change in the next 12 months.