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NPA: Do not worship ‘false gods’ of hub-and-spoke

It is “highly questionable” whether central dispensing hubs will generate any savings, says NPA chair Ian Strachan

Community pharmacy must not put itself at risk by “worshipping at the feet of false gods” such as hub-and-spoke dispensing, the National Pharmacy Association (NPA) has said.

It is “highly questionable” whether the hub-and-spoke model will generate savings, NPA chair Ian Strachan said at the organisation’s triennial chairman’s dinner at the Apothecaries’ Hall in London on Monday (November 23).

England’s chief pharmaceutical officer Keith Ridge suggested in September that hubs could deal with two thirds of the country’s prescriptions, but Mr Strachan warned the “general rollout” of this model could bring “serious risks to the pharmacy network and therefore ultimately patients”.

Mr Strachan stressed the value of the existing community pharmacy model, which offers “convenient, face-to-face advice”. “Where is the evidence that centralised dispensing will make things better, not worse?” he asked.

Instead of focusing on hub-and-spoke dispensing, the NHS should invest in pharmacy services, Mr Strachan argued. “Quality and productivity gains cannot be achieved by cuts,” he said.

“On the contrary, the NHS should now be investing in services that have the potential to achieve cost savings elsewhere in the system, as well as delivering improved patient care.”

Mr Strachan called for the commissioning of a common ailments service in England, which he described as a “no-brainer”, and a greater role for pharmacists in managing long-term conditions. To perform these services, pharmacists should have “greater freedom” to use skills such as prescribing, he added.

Earlier this month, Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) chief executive Sue Sharpe branded increasing the use of dispensing hubs as "madness".

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