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Shock news: The government may actually 'consult' the sector

Pressing pause on its hub-and-spoke plans could mean pharmacists' views will be taken seriously

Following widespread concern about its decision to plough ahead with hub-and-spoke dispensing, it seems the government has actually stopped and listened.

On Tuesday, pharmacy minister Alistair Burt made the surprise statement that a change to the law – which would allow independent pharmacies to legally run dispensing hubs – was unlikely to go ahead in October, as originally planned.

Instead, the Department of Health (DH) will take more time to “explore” the responses to its consultation on the subject “in more detail”. Some of the responses C+D has already seen strive to point out that the expanded use of automated and mail-order medicines delivery must not come at the expense of vital patient interactions.

Not many people have an issue with the legal change in itself – it’s often been cited as a possible way to “level the playing field” between independents and multiples. But it was the government’s decision to seize upon this concept just as it announced cuts to the sector’s funding that raised a few eyebrows. Eyebrows were raised even higher when England’s chief pharmaceutical officer Keith Ridge started making claims about the near-infallibility of automated dispensing.

When Dr Ridge was later forced to retract these claims, it left the government in a quandary. Should it push ahead with the plans? Or should it go back to the drawing board?

Ultimately, its pause for thought may be nothing more than that. But we should take encouragement that, for once, the DH might use a pharmacy consultation as a chance to actually consult the sector.

Your MUR stories

The government are not the only ones who have listened to pharmacists. Following C+D’s articles highlighting concerns about pressures to conduct medicines use reviews (MURs) and other target-driven services, one reader asked if we were going to highlight the positive aspects of medicines interventions.

We thought this was a great idea, and set up the #PositiveMUR Twitter hashtag to encourage pharmacists to submit their success stories. The resulting anecdotes range from the unusual – a patient who had been applying crushed terbinafine tablets to her toenails – to the potentially life-changing – one pharmacist helped prepare an expectant mother to control her asthma during labour.

Publishing these positive stories was not an attempt to brush aside the genuine issue of MUR target pressures. But we felt it was important to strike a balance. After all, if there’s one lesson to learn from the government’s hub-and-spoke backtrack, it’s that the importance of face-to-face conversations should never be forgotten.


Do you think the government will take the sector's hub-and-spoke concerns seriously?

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