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Revealed: How the Co-op's click-and-collect prescription lockers work

The Co-operative Group is trialling the lockers in five of its food stores in north-west England
The Co-operative Group is trialling the lockers in five of its food stores in north-west England

C+D has discovered more details about how the Co-operative Group's prescription collection lockers inside its food stores work in practice.

The Co-operative Group re-entered the pharmacy market last month with an app that allows patients to order prescriptions direct from their GP and collect from any pharmacy in England. It is also trialling digital health checks in six of its food stores in Manchester, and a click-and-collect service, allowing patients to order their prescriptions to lockers located in five Co-op food stores in north-west England.

“We hear from our customers that click and collect is something [they’re] interested in, and there certainly seems to be an appetite in that area,” superintendent pharmacist Rachael Clarke told C+D at the time.

How do the lockers work?

The Co-op told C+D when customers place an order via its app, they can opt to have their medicines delivered to any address in the UK or choose to use one of the group’s click-and-collect lockers.

Medicines are dispensed from the Co-op's centralised distribution hub in Lea Green, Merseyside and customers are given a unique reference, which they need to access the relevant secure locker.

“We'll advise customers upfront when choosing how they would like their medication to be dispensed and how long items will be kept in the locker, so that they can ensure they can collect their medication within the permitted timeframes,” the group explained.

“We'll be closely monitoring how long items remain in lockers before being collected.”

Certain medicines, such as controlled drugs and fridge lines, are not available for locker collection, the Co-op added.

The group has not explicitly said how many more food stores it plans to install prescription lockers in, but it will use learnings from the pilot sites “to shape what our service looks like as we roll it out further”.

Locker regulation

The Co-op worked “very closely” with the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) and the National Pharmacy Association “to ensure that we’re adhering [to] all the relevant regulatory and legal requirements”, it explained.

The GPhC told C+D that its “standards for registered pharmacies require the pharmacy owner to have clear governance arrangements in place and to identify and manage the risks associated with providing a new pharmacy service, such as lockers”.

“Pharmacy services, including lockers, must be managed and delivered safely and effectively, and medicines must be delivered to the patient safely, stored securely and safeguarded from unauthorised access,” the regulator added.

Would click-and-collect prescription lockers help with your pharmacy workload?

In all of this what is right for the customer? Surely access in communities with no pharmacy is a real difference? Or being able to shop and collect your repeat prescription? Or maybe when you need to collect late or earlier in the morning the CO-OP store would offer better reach and convenience? Come on think customer !!!!

Locum from yorkshire Pharmacist, Community pharmacist

I do get a sense that a large majority of customers will not like the fact that they cannot complain to a technician or pharmacist when ' you haven't given me my repeat item of the levothyroxine 25mg again! ' happens ~ it would be interesting to see their faces at the pick up desk.? 

C A, Community pharmacist

Will these count as pharmacies? What will happen if one opens near a dispensing doctor? Think of the doctors!

Salim Maalim, Community pharmacist

Click and collect from lockers must be stopped!

Peter Burrows, Community pharmacist

Are they not in breach of their NHS contract by refusing/ inability to dispense fridge lines or CDs? 

If a traditional pharmacy refused to dispense any medicines there would be a queue of regulators ready to pounce!

They get around this because they are not actually refusing to supply CDs and fridge lines completely. Just not provide them through the click and collect method. I would think patients can still order and collect them in the "old fashioned" way.

Peter Burrows, Community pharmacist

Not if it’s a Distance Selling Pharmacy!

John Cleese, Production & Technical

Are they refusing to dispense fridge lines and CDs altogether, though? Do you have proof of that? If it's just this delivery method that they're not allowed for, that's not an issue.

Richard MacLeavy, Dispenser Manager/ Dispensing Assistant

Am I missing something? So in the pharmacy if the pharmacist is late we can't hand out prescriptions as there is no pharmacist present and signed in but in a co-op store there never will be a pharmacist present (or any pharmacy trained member of staff) but the store can hand out prescriptions all day every day. Surely this raises a whole bunch of questions? 

Leon The Apothecary, Student

Pharmacy rules are full of golden nuggets like this. My favourite is 2x32 paracetamol is illegal in a supermarket, but 4x16 is not.

Locum Pharmacist, Locum pharmacist

How can no pharmacist input possibly be legal?

Community Pharmacist, Community pharmacist

Typical Co-op mentality that potent medicines are the same as bags of crisps...That's why NCC disappeared because the grocers could not get their swedes around the fact that medicines are potentially lethal and need professional supervision.... Their groceries stores were hammered by Tesco,Sainsburys etc etc so they sold off pharmacies for a quick fix to protect the fat cats that thrive in the Co-op grocery divisions

Dodo pharmacist, Community pharmacist

This basically drives a coach and horses through the control of entry regulations. Patients can now collect their prescriptions from anywhere with these collection lockers with no pharmacist input whatsoever. Think of the huge level of regulations pharmacies have to comply with to pass GPhC inspections and requirements- yet anyone can set up a DSP and have collection lockers sited anywhere. Maybe I will close my community pharmacy and set up a DSP with a collection point or points dotted around the city. I could then just employ an apprentice at each collection point to help people open lockers, or just hand out prescriptions and it would save having to comply with all those GPhC rules and regulations that apply to community pharmacies. No expensive pharmacists, technicians or dispensing assistants to employ, no need to bother giving advice or acccepting returned medicines, no core or supplementary hours to have to be open, no pesky signposting or safeguarding - the future of pharmacy!

Reeyah H, Community pharmacist

C and D releasing news a day early? Today is the 25th. I know that for sure as my painful loan payment leaves today. 

C A, Community pharmacist

What's special about the 26th?

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