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Hub-and-spoke company buys chain of Yorkshire pharmacies

A company that developed the UK’s first automated hub-and-spoke facility for independent pharmacies has acquired a chain of 34 pharmacies in Yorkshire.

HubRx yesterday (March 20) announced its acquisition of The Pharmacy Group, a 34-strong chain of community pharmacies based in Yorkshire employing more than 300 people and founded in 1984 by the Lestner family.

It said that following the purchase, the group will become the first community pharmacy in the UK to use its latest-generation prescription assembly service.

Read more: Hub-and-spoke company registers ‘significant interest’ after DH consultation

It means that the company does not have to wait for proposed changes to the law on hub-and-spoke models to come into force for The Pharmacy Group to make use of the service.

The partnership will become a “blueprint” for other independent pharmacies to follow, HubRx chief executive Daniel Lee – formerly of Pharmacy2U - said.

Using the hub-and-spoke service would “free up capacity” and enable The Pharmacy Group to expand into “more profitable” clinical services, he added.


“Frustrating” delay to legislative change


“The delay to secondary legislation to allow independent community pharmacies to access hub-and-spoke dispensing has been very frustrating,” he said.

“However, those operating as a single legal entity, such as The Pharmacy Group following its acquisition, are able to use it before the legislation is passed.”

He added that with pharmacies disappearing from the high streets, the industry “needs to do more than simply survive on dispensing income”.

Read more: ‘The DH’s hub-and-spoke dispensing consultation remains silent on key areas’

“With our automated assembly service freeing up the capacity, I strongly believe we have an opportunity to rapidly move into clinical services and prove our model,” he said.

HubRx said that its 40,000 square foot fully automated facility will be able to free up dispensary time for “upwards of 200 independent community pharmacies” once the legislation is passed.

It will be capable of dispensing up to 12 million healthcare items per year through its “unique” full-assembly hub-and-spoke model, it added.


“Exciting new chapter”


Under the deal, the financial details of which were not disclosed, the Lestner family will retain a minority shareholding, while Jason Lestner will join the board and take the role of chief operating officer.

Most of the pharmacies are based in West Yorkshire but the group also has locations in Hull, Scarborough, Harrogate, York and Bridlington.

Read more: CCA boss: Hub and spoke ‘one way’ to help solve pharmacy workforce crisis

Jason Lestner said it marked “an exciting new chapter” for The Pharmacy Group and that using the HubRx assembly service would enable it to “significantly” extend clinical services.

“Over the last 37 years we’ve achieved so much as a three-generation owned and operated business. I’m incredibly proud of our journey so far, but I’m also excited by what’s to come now we’re working alongside HubRx," he added.

Read more: Hub and spoke could pose long-term competition risks, watchdog warns

“Community pharmacy can’t stand still, it needs to evolve to meet the needs of patients, but to also offer those working within it the opportunity to grow professionally and feel job satisfaction,” he said.

The Department of Health and Social Care (DH) last year launched a consultation on whether the law should change to enable all community pharmacies to operate under a hub-and-spoke dispensing system.

Feedback to the consultation, which ended in June, is still being analysed.

Catch up on C+D’s Big Debate which asked: Could a hub-and-spoke model ever truly work for independent pharmacies?

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