Cormac’s View: The Community Pharmacy Economic Model is Broken

Over eighteen months ago we learnt of the imposition of draconian cuts to the global sum.  An inevitable – desired, even—outcome of this is surely community pharmacy closures?




When the news became public, a profession not known for its activism mobilised forces and galvanised the public to consider its plight; two million signatures demonstrated the public support for our industry.  Despite challenge in the courts the cuts were imposed and then it went quiet…

Celesio’s place in the pharmacy market is pretty unique given our national LloydsPharmacy network, as well as independent customers through AAH and our Careway partnership model.  I know what is happening at the coalface and, let me tell you, whether you have 1000 outlets or two, the view is the same; the community pharmacy economic model is broken.

Countless reviews, reports and studies have recognisedpharmacy’s value to the NHS.  Whether it’s the New Medicines Service delivering £75.4m in short-term savings, a PriceWaterhouseCoopers report finding that community pharmacy contributed an in-year benefit of £3 billion or work by Pharmacy Voice indicating that one in four people who would normally seek advice from their local pharmacy would go straight to a GP if their pharmacy closed, they only tell us what we already know, that community pharmacy is part of the solution to increasing capacity and supporting whole-system working across all parts of the NHS.  But to do this needs a change of emphasis.

We need Government to work with us.  The prospect of a destabilised pharmacy network which presents significant risks to other critical parts of the NHS is very real.

Speaking this week, the head of NHS England, Simon Stevens, warned hospitals and GP surgeries to be on high alert and prepared for a big increase in cases of flu this winter.  We already know that GP surgeries are inundated and consequently those people who can’t get an appointment are going to A & E.  It seems just a matter of common sense that if pharmacists help deal with minor ailments they can free up slots for doctors to deal with the more serious cases, thereby releasing capacity in hospitals.  Unless all parts of the NHS work together and play to their strengths, the system doesn’t work effectively.

We believed the Government when it outlined its desire to put pharmacy at the heart of the NHS.  We believed a national minor ailment service would be introduced.  We believed in ‘a bigger and different role for pharmacy’.

We invested in technology to release capacity for front line health care professionals to deal with older patients with more long term conditions.  We trained our people to be prepared for more clinical roles.  We absorbed the costs of national living wage, apprenticeship levy, business rates and fuel increases.  We waited.  And waited…

Now we are faced with punitive Cat M cuts.

So, will the new pharmacy minister act on his assurances?  Or, like his predecessors, will he fail to deliver?  Could the Domesday scenario of pharmacy closures become a reality?  We surely won’t have long to wait.    Time is the fire our industry is burning in.