Business confidence among pharmacists is returning, following the cuts to community pharmacy funding, but optimism remains below that seen in 2015, according to the results of Lloyds Bank’s ninth annual survey of pharmacists, dentists and GPs.
The bank’s ‘healthcare confidence index’ is based on interviews with 105 community pharmacists. It shows that, in 2016, overall business confidence among pharmacists dropped to around -42 (out of a minimum -100/maximum +100), from around -16 in 2015. After 2016, confidence started to increase again, but only reached around -28 in 2017.
The results of the survey showed that nearly half (48%) of pharmacists expected their profits to increase in the next year, although just over a quarter (26%) expected them to fall, and the majority (84%) expected financial pressures to increase over the longer term.
In 2017, 58% said that they expected more than 1,000 pharmacy closures in the following five years, said the report. In the 2018 survey, 47% said they expected more then 1,000 pharmacy closures.
Furthermore, expectation of increasing financial pressures in the next five years declined in this years’ survey, from 92% to 84%.
“Pharmacies have shown real resilience, but we know that many of them are struggling financially and that service levels have been affected by funding cuts,” said a spokesperson for the National Pharmacy Association.
“It’s not surprising that this survey finds confidence remains shaky. What will really instill belief is a sustainable funding settlement and consistent signals from government that they see pharmacies as a solution, not as a problem,” they added.
The new chief executive of the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC), Simon Dukes, said that community pharmacies are working hard to deliver the services that the NHS wants, but imposed funding cuts have left many contractors in a very difficult financial position.
“The PSNC has set out its ambition to move to a funding framework that fairly rewards community pharmacies for offering a wider range of patient care and services, including the dispensing of medicines, and we have put forward constructive proposals for discussion with the NHS,” he said.
“We hope to begin negotiations on 2018/2019 funding very soon, and it is vital that those discussions enable us to make meaningful progress towards this ambition.”
In the Lloyds report, Kevin Nichols, managing director of The Pharmacy Consultancy — which offers financial and management services to the community and retail pharmacy industry — said that an important indicator of pharmacists looking for new opportunities in their business can be seen in the increase in medicine usage reviews. The survey found that 70% of pharmacists said they hoped to deliver the maximum number they will be reimbursed for (up to 400), as part of an advanced service this year.
More pharmacies have also engaged with their local GP surgeries to work more efficiently together to bring benefits for patients, wrote Nichols, and an increasing number of pharmacists want to grow by acquiring additional pharmacies or setting up new sites.