NHS Digital has just released their report on prescription costs and volume in England for 2017. The data shows that the cost of prescriptions dispensed in 2017 was down 0.41% on 2016 at £9.17 billion and volume only marginally up at 1.11 billion, a rise of 0.15% on 2016.
Historically we have seen a fall in value due to the increasing prescribing of off-patent medicines but with an increase in volume of 4-5% as the population grows and ages with more people living with long-term conditions. This slowing of growth in Rx volume will be due to a range of Medicines Optimisation activities and some further limitations in formularies by some CCGs. With the current consultation on taking a range of OTC medicines off prescription this is likely to lead to a further reduction in volume and cost going forward.
So what does that mean for community pharmacies?
Given the funding cuts, challenges in the supply chain, concessionary prices and loss on dispensing for an increasing range of medicines, this is only going to make matters worse.
What can be done?
1. We need a new remuneration and reimbursement model based on the provision of quality care to reward and drive the right incentives and behaviours.
2. Community pharmacy owners need to re-examine their business model to focus less on revenue coming from NHS Rx business which is decreasing and likely to be even less profitable or sustainable. However, at the same time, this must be retained to maintain footfall and hence opportunity to create an enhanced consumer experience and service and/or sale platform.
3. Examine the local market to identify and address opportunities for profitable income from commissioned and private services plus growing the self-care market, particularly with P-medicines.
4. Build on the foundations of Healthy Living Pharmacy as business as usual to help deliver the above.
Pharmacy Complete now offers a Business Development Programme which begins with a Planning for Growth course to support community pharmacy owners and managers build a healthier future for pharmacy and the communities they serve.