Like most people in the sector, I have been following with great interest the press coverage of the legal challenges to the funding cuts. At this point, I must point out that I am not the mysterious industry insider who appears to have given so much ammunition to a Department of Health keen to make savings.
As an area manager for an opinion-polarising multiple, I find it easy to be unpopular among some community pharmacists as it is – despite my best intentions.
So I found myself wondering, what is the worst-case scenario of the potential outcomes that are being predicted? Is it really 3,000 pharmacies closing? Or is it really only 1,000 pharmacies being left open, as some are saying?
No, the worst thing for the sector, in my opinion, would be 3,000 pharmacies not closing. And this is what I fear might actually happen.
Before you recoil in horror from that statement, allow me to explain.
I just can’t see business owners, who have made big investments in their pharmacies over the years, just deciding to throw in their towel and close. The demand for pharmacy ownership seems to remain strong, as evidenced by high sale prices. Therefore, some owners may sell or retire.
But close? I suspect not. Worst-case scenario: the Mercedes dealership might have to wait another year before the car is renewed, or locum rates may have to drop again. What I hope we see overall is the diversification of these pharmacies into additional activities and services. I don’t think that’s a bad thing, if done in a professional way.
And if, after all this noise from the sector, pharmacies don’t start to close en masse, then an emboldened government will see an opportunity to cut further and harder in the future. That could be the worst scenario the sector faces.
After absorbing the cuts, and contributing via the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee or the National Pharmacy Association to the funding of a costly legal challenge, the healthy profits still around will be seen as even more prime targets for the government.
The real dangers to the sector could come later, from crying wolf now. We may have to start supporting a few closures of the weak, in order to prevent even worse in the future for the many.
The Area Manager has worked for all of the large multiples