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Boots pushes back against ‘cost-saving’ hub claim after plastic uproar

Boots: Preston hub removes routine dispensing workload from individual stores

Boots has pushed back against claims in the media that the centralised dispensing hub behind its newly controversial plastic prescription bags is a cost-saving measure.

Customer anger about the use of plastic bags, issued from its Preston dispensing hub to 380 Boots branches across the country, made national headlines last week. The BBC’s coverage included a patient’s claim that the hub is a “cost-cutting exercise”.

But Boots stressed that the hub is “not a cost-saving measure”, and instead “removes the routine dispensing workload from individual stores”.

The hub has been in operation since 2014 and “helps free our pharmacists’ time”, which allows them to do more services for our patients”, the multiple said.

This is increasingly important as the NHS is “keen that pharmacists are more available to offer patients advice and services like flu vaccinations and health checks”.

Machines at the hub use automation to “safely and securely pick the right medicines for each prescription”, with “the latest scanning verification technology to ensure the highest levels of accuracy”.

Hub accounts for less than 8% of total dispensing

Centralised dispensing accounts for less than 8% of the multiple’s total dispensing, meaning the “overwhelming majority” of medicines are dispensed in paper bags.

Plastic bags are used at the hub as they are robust and can be heat sealed to prevent medication falling out, Boots explained.

Boots stressed that the hub “uses bags that are 100% recyclable”, and that the plastic bags “mean we can deliver medicines to patients in a way that is safe, clean, dry and durable”.

The multiple is considering alternative packaging with similar qualities, and will move to these “as soon as we can”, it added.

What do you think about the Boots plastic bags backlash?

Julie Friday, Accuracy checking technician

Never trust anything that Boots say!!

David Lamb , Dispenser Manager/ Dispensing Assistant

Since when were pharmacists doing "routine dispensing"? What its freeing up is dispensers, but no mention of what they will be doing

Leon The Apothecary, Student

Well said, David. If the final check was not legally required to be done by a Pharmacist would there be a need for one in the dispensing process beyond clinical assessment?

Benie Locum, Locum pharmacist

It's called telling lies.

Peter Smith, Student

Which seems to be very, very common across the pharmacy profession as a whole.

Richard MacLeavy, Dispenser Manager/ Dispensing Assistant

They are talking absolute rubbish when they say its not a cost saving excercise. Are they commiting to not cut hours in branch due to the introduction of this technology?

Peter Smith, Student

The new bags will either be more or less expensive than the old ones. If they cost more, Boots would not have switched, not a chance. Hence it must be a cost-saving exercise. In my opinion, therefore, you shouldn't trust anything that they say if they are willing to lie about such a relatively trivial issue.

RS Pharmacist, Primary care pharmacist

I'm all up for a bit of Boots bashing, but they are not the only ones who are using plastic bags instead of paper bags from their hub operation. Look for the pestle and mortar....

Peter Smith, Student

I don't think the bags themselves are the issue, it's the lying about cost-cutting.

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