Growing financial pressures has dented pharmacists confidence, despite an anticipated increase in profits in the current year, latest Lloyds Bank Healthcare Confidence Index revealed on Tuesday (November 9).

Though short-term confidence among pharmacists increased for the fifth consecutive year, ticking up from 27 to 29, the sector’s long-term belief fell from -34 to -42.

Martyn Kendrick, UK head of healthcare banking services at Lloyds Bank, said: “While pharmacists’ confidence has declined somewhat, their short-term outlook has improved for another year, painting a picture of a sector that has begun to bounce back.”

He added that “pharmacists have performed an invaluable service during the lockdown, confirming their place at the heart of our communities.”

The index, a survey of pharmacists, GPs and dentists, has run annually since 2011 and gives a detailed overview of the sector.

Short-term optimism

Around 65 per cent of pharmacists expect to grow their profits in the next year while 62 per cent expect that NHS services to patients will improve.

Lockdown has also boosted the potential for pharmacists, with 61 per cent of them saying they would buy or consider buying another pharmacy.

However, a majority of them feel that financial pressures will increase over the next five years, wavering their confidence.

(Photo: iStock)

Online competition

Long-term outlook of pharmacists remains negative as “the sector looks for more clarity on the government’s strategy on disease prevention and managing long-term conditions, including how it will be implemented locally,” the report said.

It noted that 44 per cent of the surveyed pharmacists cited “online rivals as a threat,” indicating a change in consumer behavior during the pandemic.

But, return of normal activity will enable pharmacists to offer more clinical services, which would distinguish them from online operators, it said.

Embracing sustainability

The report said that pharmacists remain committed to improve sustainability of their businesses, with 72 per cent saying it is a vital part of their future plans.

They are working on reduction of waste and paper usage by switching to email and text messages.

Acknowledging challenges faced by pharmacists from online pharmacies, Kendrick said that pharmacists now have the opportunity to expand their range of clinical services and drive new income.

He promised that Lloyds Bank would continue to support pharmacists with guidance and products to meet these targets.

Dr Leyla Hannbeck, chief executive officer at the Association of Independent Multiple Pharmacies, also noted that many see “internet pharmacy as a threat to their business.”

She expected this “trend to weaken as bricks and mortar pharmacies become more focused on delivering clinical services.”

Tony Evans, head of pharmacy at Christie & Co, said: “There have undoubtedly been operational challenges, but pharmacists have learnt a lot about their businesses and the changes they’ve implemented over last 18 months have made them even stronger.”

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