Over a third (37%) of the 136 respondents to the C+D poll – which ran between October 26 and November 11 – said they did not currently charge patients for medicine deliveries but were considering starting to do so. A small proportion of these respondents (8%) said they were considering introducing charges for medicine deliveries “in light of COVID-19”.
A similar percentage (38%) said they “already charge some or all of our patients”, while 26% said they “would never consider” charging patients for this.
The latest findings show a slight increase compared to a similar C+D poll last year. That poll ran in August 2019, with 25% of respondents saying they would never consider charging patients for medicine deliveries.
C+D launched its 2020 poll before it was announced that the pandemic delivery service would be recommissioned in England from November 5 to December 3 – providing free deliveries for “clinically extremely vulnerable” patients who are shielding at home and cannot access their medicines.
Reluctant but forced to charge
Hussain Mohajer, superintendent pharmacist at Cornwell’s Chemists in Newcastle-under-Lyme, Staffordshire told C+D last week (November 13) that his pharmacy does not currently charge for medicine deliveries and, in “an ideal world”, would not need to.
However, current funding constraints make it “potentially unviable” for Cornwell’s Chemist to maintain free services such as its delivery service. “Hence why we may have little alternative but to charge for deliveries in the near future, which we are reluctant to do as a company”, said Mr Mohajer, adding that demand for deliveries “skyrocketed” during the first wave of the pandemic.
“In order to maintain and actually improve our service offering, which pharmacies are eager to do, substantial additional funding is required before it is too late and more pharmacies have to close unnecessarily, negatively impacting local communities,” he added.
Sabina, a community pharmacist based in north London, told C+D earlier this week (November 16) that charging patients for deliveries “would be an absolute last resort and something we would do really reluctantly”.
Her pharmacy has registered an increase in requests for deliveries in the past six months, as patients who were not necessarily shielding started requesting free deliveries as well.
“It got to a point where we got so many delivery requests that our driver… we had to increase their hours for every single day. Five extra hours in a week, it becomes a greater cost,” she said.
The pharmacy tries to “discourage patients who don’t have a genuine need” from asking for medicine deliveries. However, should they decide to introduce delivery charges, this would probably come into effect from next year, Sabina added.
“Some patients might be in financial difficulties and I don’t want to add that on,” she said.
Lloydspharmacy and Boots introduced a subscription-based service for home deliveries in 2017 and 2018 respectively, while Rowlands told C+D last year it is “prioritising deliveries to more vulnerable patients”.