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ITV report: Half of pharmacy workers unprepared for Pharmacy First

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ITV report: Half of pharmacy workers unprepared for Pharmacy First

Just under half of pharmacy workers in England say they do not feel confident they can provide new NHS services like Pharmacy First – while the vast majority are struggling with medicine shortages, a new survey has revealed.

The survey of 980 pharmacy workers across England, carried out as part of an ITV Tonight documentary that aired last night (January 11) on the challenges facing community pharmacies, found that 48 per cent “do not feel confident they can provide the new services”.

Vikki Furneaux, manager of Monkbar Pharmacy in York, told reporter Paul Brand she was “not confident” her team would have the capacity to deliver it, explaining that “10 years of progressive underfunding” have left them with little flexibility.

She also said that the closure of a nearby Boots branch had led to a significant rise in demand for prescriptions and services at Monkbar Pharmacy, commenting that this “would have been a good thing year ago, but often the patients don’t bring in a lot of income” and some are on medicines for which the pharmacy is reimbursed less than they pay to source them.  

The issues of drug shortages and dispensing at a loss were cited frequently in the programme. Eighty-six per cent of respondents to the ITV survey said that on a daily basis they are unable to dispense a prescription they are presented with, while 89 per cent reported dispensing NHS medicines at a loss. Vikki Furneaux said her pharmacy receives around 20 phone calls an hour, many of which relate to medicine shortages.

Greater Manchester contractor Ian Strachan showed the reporters how he was unable to source cholesterol drug ezetimibe for below £15.89, despite the drug tariff rate being just £9.40 per box.

Due to these challenges, 96 per cent of those surveyed said they were concerned their pharmacy “is not financially viable”.

Mr Strachan said he had been forced to sell one of his pharmacies: “One of our branches was making losses; those losses were carried by the rest of the group [until] the bank said ‘look, we advise that you get rid of that branch’”.

There is a strong risk that pharmacies – which are reportedly shutting at a rate of eight per week – will soon be closing “in huge numbers,” said Mr Strachan, who added: “Pharmacies ae truly in a time and a period when they are in crisis.”

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