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DH 'looking into' relaxing hub-and-spoke dispensing law

The law currently prohibits companies from using the model unless they own both the dispensing hub and the pharmacy

The Department of Health wants to enable independent pharmacies, rather than "just the large multiples", to dispense medication from a central hub


The Department of Health (DH) is investigating changing the law to allow independent pharmacies to operate using a hub-and-spoke dispensing model, C+D has learned.

The DH told C+D last week (September 22) that it was “looking into” relaxing the law prohibiting companies from operating the model unless they own both the dispensing hub and the pharmacy. This would allow all pharmacies – rather than “just the large multiples” – to use it, it said.

The news comes after England’s chief pharmaceutical officer, Keith Ridge, called for the law to be lifted “as soon as possible” at the Royal Pharmaceutical Society’s annual conference last month (September 14).

He told delegates that central dispensing hubs could deal with two thirds of England’s prescriptions and give “highly trained staff” more time to spend with patients.

Last year, the Pharmacists’ Defence Association and Pharmacy Voice called for the government to rethink its approach to the law in their responses to NHS England’s Call to Action consultation on the future of pharmacy.


How could using a hub-and-spoke dispensing model benefit your business?

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max falconer, Superintendent Pharmacist

The whole direction of travel for the 'profession' is a one way ticket to oblivion. Basically we deserve it, with our active enthusiasm for initiatives that hurry our demise starting with EPS. For the first time this gave the DoH the technical ability to deprive us of our livelihood. Now hub and spoke. We are steadily ironing out all the technical and logistical problems and once we have kindly done that we won't be needed any more! Christmas is coming and the pharmacy goose is actively readying itself for cooking.

Chris Locum, Locum pharmacist

Well said, one way direction to professional slaughter and extinction for the majority of community pharmacists. Eliminate the stumbling blocks and the end game would be in sight, apart from those chasing the honour to supervise remotely at low pay - tens of thousands unempoyed and no thanks to universities for swelling those ranks

London Locum, Locum pharmacist

Spot on Max. Pharmacists, also known as turkeys that vote for Xmas.

Neeraj Salwan, Superintendent Pharmacist

Is this not the point for our representative bodies to carry out a consultation exercise of its members and defend the position OR will what normally happens occur I.e. Respond when it is too late and DoH has decided for us...

John Alan James Robinson, Superintendent Pharmacist

So who will submit the electronic prescription. Who will get paid, Who will organise the delivery. Who will keep the PMR record , who will keep the proof of delivery documents. Oh dont worry it only takes 18 months to sort flu records out. No doubt the NPA will come up with a scheme involving some courier. Might have wings on their feet . I would expect utter chaos.

Barry Pharmacist, Community pharmacist

Beware of Greeks bearing gifts! The DoH want this for one obvious reason and it's not for the benefit of contractors. If you're thinking of a career as a pharmacist think again, the writing is on the wall.

Chris Mckendrick, Community pharmacist

I wouldn't worry about it if I were you. The D. of H. can't even sort out decriminalisation of dispensing errors and it's been "looking into that" for years. What independent (sole trader) in their right mind is going to use a hub to dispense their scripts when any mistakes the hub makes will put the contractor in the dock? Wait a minute, when the scripts come back from the hub perhaps you could unpack them all and check them all against the original scripts, just to cover your back. Lucky you didn't sack your trusted NVQ 3 Checking Tech after all, just your NVQ 2 Dispensing Tech, which nearly freed up enough cash each month to pay for the Hub...Brilliant! See you next week on Dragon's Den!

Lancelot Spratt, Accuracy checking technician

You make the assumption that the scripts come to the pharmacy to be given to the patient. It makes far more sense to deliver directly to the patient from the hub. So you don't need to worry about being blamed for anything, as you will play no part in the process.

Chris Mckendrick, Community pharmacist

I know this may surprise you, but I actually like being part of the process and taking responsibility for my business and building relationships with my customers, so no it does not make more sense for the Hub to deliver direct to my customers, it makes more sense not to use the business model in the first place.

BL E, Primary care pharmacist

Having worked with a hub and spoke model a few years ago, they only dispensed standard items eg no fridge, CDs etc. we frequently received scripts back with owings on for standard items as well. Would you be suggesting that the hub delivers the standard lines and the pharmacy made separate deliveries for everything the hub couldn't supply?

John Urwin, Community pharmacist

And that really would be the end of community pharmacy. It is the interaction between pharmacy staff and patient, primarily at the point of issue of prescriptions, that enables pharmacists to add value and resolve problems. There is no correlation between simplicity of dispensing and potential for patients needing assistance in getting the best from their medication.

John Urwin, Community pharmacist

Furthermore, any pharmacist who soft pedals on maximising Pharmacy Added Value in the dispensing process is aiding and abetting their potential professional demise.

Dodo pharmacist, Community pharmacist

Well said Chris, you are 100 percent right. My experience of hub dispensing is that it saves very little time and of course the question of responsibility for errors is a very serious point. You can bet your life the GPhC will come down on the responsible pharmacist like a ton of bricks if an error is made at the hub.

Stephen Eggleston, Community pharmacist

I can only agree with the other comments - this will reduce costs for the NHS and result in reduced staffing in pharmacies. Whilst not necessarily a bad thing, it will change pharmacy beyond all recognition

Clive Hodgson, Community pharmacist

I keep saying it. Hub’n’spoke is purely about cost saving. Ultimate beneficiary will be the Dept of Health who will claw back most of the savings made by reducing the payments for dispensing. Losers with be Pharmacists and others in the dispensing team who will be left to scratch some form of living with “services” or become totally redundant.

London Locum, Locum pharmacist

The equivalent of being told to slit your own throat, that it will be good for you in the long run.

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