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James Waldron: The dubious claims about hub-and-spoke

The figures on the controversial dispensing model don't stand up to scrutiny, says C+D's editor

In January, I wrote that the government should think twice before making wrong-footed predictions about the potential of hub-and-spoke dispensing to save the sector.

Three months on, and the Department of Health (DH) is not only consulting the sector on its vision for a hub-and-spoke future, but making dubious claims about how much this could save independent contractors.

You could view this as the government finally putting its money where its mouth is, except it is presumably relying on pharmacists to foot the bill themselves. The DH puts the price tag for a standard dispensing hub at a bank account-busting £5 million. Admittedly, this works out at a more manageable £20,000 for each of the 250 pharmacies it expects such a facility to serve.

But this model relies on a contractor persuading 249 other branches to come on board, something that may be hard to do while the real-term benefits are still so intangible.The government argues that the increased use of this model will help contractors make savings on their pharmacist and technician staff costs (10% and 25% respectively).

But even this doesn’t stand up to scrutiny. In fact, the DH admits that its predictions are based on a “high estimate” that 60% of prescriptions can be dispensed through this system, while its “central estimate” is a more conservative 45%.

The NPA’s Mike Hewitson has branded the figures “laughable”, while the Royal Pharmaceutical Society’s Sandra Gidley has raised valid queries about who will ultimately be responsible for accuracy checking. It will be interesting to see whether the government addresses these issues by the end of its consultation process. Make sure to submit your thoughts via bit.ly/HubViews before May 17.

C+D Awards 2016 – shortlist

While the future of hub-and-spoke remains murky, one thing that can be relied upon is the quality of entries to the C+D Awards. Our panel of hand-picked judges (including last year’s winners) have managed to select 91 finalists to make it through to the final stage. It’s great to see some of last year’s winners back in the running alongside an array of fresh faces, and I can’t wait to see who is going to collect a trophy at the ceremony on June 15. With tickets on sale (at discounted prices until April 15) at chemistanddruggist.co.uk/awards, I hope to see you there.
 

James Waldron is editor of C+D. Email him at [email protected] or contact him on Twitter at @CandDJamesW
 


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