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Is the Government serious about expanding pharmacy’s role?

"Notable fragility" in the pharmacy sector

Regulation is an expensive business these days, it would appear, if the GPhC’s proposal to raise the annual premises fee by nearly 40 per cent is anything to go by.

What caught our eye was a finding buried in the accompanying impact assessment, which suggested that over half the pharmacies in the research sample are operating at a deficit. Confirmation, if any were needed, that the pharmacy sector is “demonstrating a notable fragility” (in the words of Ernst & Young) was provided by a slew of headlines in recent weeks concerning the financial tribulations of Boots, LloydsPharmacy and Pharmacy2U.

The new Community Pharmacy Contractual Framework in England may represent something of a new start but a potential killer combination of frozen funding, plummeting profits, increasing competition and reimbursement unpredictability is wreaking havoc. There will undoubtedly be further pharmacy closures unless contractors can find other, substantial sources of income.

There is a smidgen of good news – maybe even a few green shoots of recovery poking through the financial gloom – with over 100,000 patients referred to pharmacies in the first 10 weeks of the CPCS. No one is getting carried away. Coverage is patchy and works out at only around one referral per week per pharmacy.

However, it is an encouraging start and goes to show what community pharmacy can do given the chance. If the Government is serious about expanding pharmacists’ role in urgent care and minor illness, it needs to dip its hand into its pocket. Fast.

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