PSNC’s 2023 Pharmacy Pressures Survey has confirmed the worsening situation for community pharmacies as rising costs and significantly increased workload is putting businesses at greater risk of collapse.

The survey of over 6,200 pharmacy premises and 2,000 pharmacy team members shows a very worrying picture of the impact of the current pressures on pharmacies and gives a bleak outlook for the sector’s future.

The results indicate that the majority (96%) of pharmacy owners are facing significantly higher costs than last year – up from 80% in the 2022 pressures survey – and many are operating understaffed due to both insufficient funding (48%) and staff unavailability (34%). But at the same time, 92% of pharmacy teams cited a significant increase in requests from patients unable to access General Practice and 71% reported problems sourcing medicines.

Many pharmacy staff (81%) say they are struggling to cope due to a significant rise in workload and 78% report that their work is having a negative impact on their mental health and wellbeing. And, unsurprisingly, 78% of pharmacy owners are extremely concerned about their business finances with 41% now extremely worried about their ability to help patients.

This reflects the extreme levels of stress that pharmacy teams and businesses are currently experiencing. Urgent funding is needed to help address some of the pressures and to protect patient services and access to medicines. PSNC believes that a fully funded Pharmacy First service could help to alleviate some of these pressures.

The survey was run as a follow up to the 2022 pressures survey, providing clear comparative data showing the worsening situation across the sector. Last year’s invaluable insights lent significant weight to PSNC’s business case for a funding uplift as well as wider negotiations and work to influence key decision-makers. As we continue to work to raise awareness of the severity of the problems and to lobby for Government and NHS action to ease the pressures, the 2023 survey results will be critical in giving our arguments a solid evidence base. These results will be particularly beneficial in discussions ahead of the next CPCF negotiations.

PSNC has already used the data to secure national broadcast coverage this week, and we will shortly be contacting our Parliamentary supporters to help us to keep reminding Government Ministers of the key findings. Many thanks to all pharmacy owners and teams who took part this year. We very much appreciate your continued support, particularly as completing surveys can be labour intensive. We would like to assure you that the results will be put to maximum use in the coming weeks and months through both our negotiations and our joint influencing and campaigning work – such as the #SaveOurPharmacies campaign – to make the case for further investment in the sector.

Summary of the Survey results

Almost all pharmacy teams (98%) and pharmacy owners (97%) staff surveyed report that patients were being negatively affected by the pressures on their pharmacy (up from 92% in the 2022 pressures survey).

81% of pharmacy teams have experienced increases in patients requests for support, and almost 1 in 5 reported unplanned closures due to staff shortages.

Medicines supply issues also continue to exacerbate the strain on pharmacies. In the survey, 92% of pharmacy teams revealed they are dealing with medicine supply issues daily, an increase from 67% in the 2022 pressures survey. Additionally, almost all the pharmacy owners (97%) reported significant increases in wholesaler and medicine supply issues, and 84% said they had experienced aggression from patients due to medicine supply issues.

Worryingly, 45% of pharmacy teams say that patient abuse is one of the reasons why they are not coping at work.

Additionally in this year’s survey:

73% of pharmacy owners said that prescriptions take longer to dispense.
81% said they were unable to spend as much time with patients.
Over three-quarters (76%) said the promptness with which their pharmacies could respond to patient queries by phone or email was affected.
Almost all pharmacy owners (97%) reported significant increases in wholesaler and medicine supply issues, with 71% saying this was leading to delays in prescriptions being issued.

Respondents were also asked about the types of patient requests that they have been receiving, and the following have all increased significantly in the last 3 months:

Help with symptoms for both serious (81%) and minor conditions (96%)
Help with long term conditions (78%)
Help with prescription ordering (74%)
Help with diagnostics and monitoring (66%)
Advice on menopause and HRT (81%)
Advice or requests for antibiotics (91%)

CEO comment

PSNC Chief Executive Janet Morrison said:

“This year’s Pressures Survey results really hit home – our survey paints a devastating picture of staff under unbearable pressures, and businesses struggling to cope. Whilst we strongly suspected to uncover a stark situation, the results are still distressing.

“We appreciate the support of our pharmacy colleagues in completing this year’s survey, particularly during this very challenging time. We know that surveys can take precious time to complete and may seem frustrating when the outcomes are not always immediate. But I can’t stress enough that your input is extremely valuable. We make it our priority to use data and statistics like this to bolster our ongoing work.

“Last year’s survey results were very instrumental in our influencing and campaigning work. Not only did we feed them into our negotiations and business case for a funding uplift for the sector, but the results were powerful in persuading MPs and Ministers to pay attention to the pressures in community pharmacy. We will be making efforts to do the same with this year’s survey results. This will include using the results in discussions ahead of next CPCF negotiations and in our discussions with Parliamentarians. We have already seen MPs supporting our case increasingly in Parliament and we know that MPs find the data useful when they talk to Ministers on our behalf.

“While we all know the pressures and these results are evident to us, without data to prove our case, Government and NHSE will not see just how serious things have become. The annual Pressures Survey is critical evidence in highlighting the reality of the worsening situation to policy makers.

“This year’s survey clearly shows that community pharmacies are buckling under growing cost and capacity pressures – the consequences should they be allowed to collapse are unthinkable. Funding is needed, without delay, to maintain patient access to the medicines and pharmacy services that they need. PSNC has been pressing for a fully-funded national Pharmacy First service to be included in the upcoming Primary Care Recovery Plan as we strongly believe this is the best chance for getting significant additional funds into community pharmacies.”


Summary of the findings from PSNC’s 2023 Pharmacy Pressures Survey

An infographic on the 2023 Pharmacy Pressures Survey results

COMING SOON: Social media graphics

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