Going live earlier this month (November 2), the hub is based at Avicenna’s Hylton Castle pharmacy in Sunderland and currently produces trays for one branch.
The aim is to add another five branches “over the next month or so”, so that the hub will shortly be serving six, Avicenna chief operating officer Nick Clark told C+D last week (November 10).
“The reason we’re doing that is to release capacity in other branches to be able to conduct extra services and potentially grow the business,” Mr Clark said.
This hub was introduced to dispense trays for branches in the Newcastle and Sunderland area, but Mr Clark said Avicenna could potentially open another one in the future, once the company has “increased capacity through [the first] hub”.
Opening up to member pharmacies?
Asked whether the company would consider opening up the automated hub to its member pharmacies, of which there are more than 1,000, Mr Clark said that “it’s a distinct possibility but it’s not something we can say is going to happen as we don’t know what’s going to happen with the legislation”.
“As it stands at the moment”, the hub has been set up for Avicenna’s own branches only but the company “will look at other opportunities going forward”, he added.
Avicenna managing director Bharti Patel told C+D yesterday (November 16) that “automation is becoming increasingly important for pharmacy and certainly, for groups, there are economies of scale to be achieved as well as capacity release in satellite pharmacies”.
“With respect to changes in regulation to allow hub dispensing to third parties, we are yet to see how this model could work from a commercial perspective for independents,” she added.
Announcing the five-year funding deal last year, the Department of Health and Social Care said it would review the legislation to allow independent community pharmacies to operate a hub-and-spoke dispensing model.
In June, the National Pharmacy Association (NPA) said proposed changes to the medicine regulations impacting hub-and-spoke dispensing required “sufficient parliamentary scrutiny”. The NPA raised concerns that, if passed, the Medicines and Medical Devices Bill could allow ministers to pass legislation “without sufficient parliamentary scrutiny and democratic accountability”.