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‘Don’t be Dave’: Numark posters warn patients about online pharmacies

The campaign will run over five months
The campaign will run over five months

Numark has launched a five-month campaign to encourage patients to use their local pharmacy, rather than switch to an online service.

The Support your local pharmacy campaign will see Numark pharmacies issued with a range of posters and leaflets to display, the buying group announced today (July 3).

“Online pharmacies are seeing significant growth in scripts, yet retention rates are very often low,” Numark claimed.

“Patients are often unaware that they are signing up to a remotely located provider who is not linked to their local pharmacy.”

The posters depict a range of characters, including Dave, Doris and the Dixons, explaining how using an online pharmacy was less convenient than they expected.

“While patients might think that an online dispensary is an easier option, not only do they miss out on the other services a local pharmacy offers, but it is also potentially less efficient and less safe,” Numark added.

Managing director Jeremy Meader said: “Community pharmacy is all about providing patients with an accessible and high quality service.

“Online pharmacies are unable to provide the same level of personal care and we want to see patients remaining loyal to their local pharmacists, who are continuing to provide an excellent service that goes beyond prescriptions.”

48 Comments
Question: 
Wil you display these posters in your pharmacy?

ABC DEF, Primary care pharmacist

I look at this from a different perspective, and probably not everyone will agree with me. But financially speaking online pharmacies is the only viable option moving forward. 

What the patients actually DO want are:

1. Hassle-free meds requesting (''automatic'' is my most hated word in the dictionary since becoming a pharmacist')

2. Instant dispensing (with no oos/ordering/await delivery issues)

3. Same day/instant pick-up or even better, delivered (next-level spoon-feeding)

4. Getting everything and anything for FREE, whether it is otc meds or a service

 

What the patients DON'T want are:

1. Worthless mur and nms. Though I agree they can benefit patients if done correctly for the right patients, there is simply no demand of these and patients simply don't even want a 5 mins quick chat.

2. Worthless private services. There is literally ZERO demand for these when they can simply get most, if not all, treatments for free from GPs. Why would one pay £20 to get norethisterone from private service when these are dished out by GPs easily for not even a penny?

3. otc counseling, patients simply don't want to listen to whatever we have to say about counseling or advice. And on top of that most don't even want to pay for otc meds ''I am entitled to free scripts so I will just ask my doctor to prescribe them for me'' 

 

Online pharmacies will continue to grow because of the convenience (in terms of patients getting next level spoon-fed with everything delivered to their doors), lower running costs and can potentially have a warehouse-worth of meds right next to their hub (so they don't have the issues of needing to order meds and await delivery).

High street pharmacies, on the other hand, suffer from higher running costs, less efficient dispensing model, chronically understaff issues resulting in long waiting times (or even days or weeks behind), not keeping enough meds in stock which made worse by recent shortages, and offering services that have literally 0 demand. These all lead to patient dissatisfaction causing them to migrate to online pharmacies.

Interleukin -2, Community pharmacist

You ve spent half your day listing all the things you want from a community pharmacy. You dont actually know for a fact what anyone wants.. just your empty assumptions. I work in community and lots of my patients enjoy MURs. Loads more love being owed items cos that way they have a valid excuse to drop in to chat and bond with staff as we in more cases than you would care to imagine are their only family and community. I am not surprised you are a primary care pharmacist and probably couldnt crack it in community. It takes skills expertise and grit to do community you know....The community pharmacy network is one of the most beautiful and precious things we have on these islands.. its easy to take it for granted and there's seems to be a single minded determination to destroy it..fuelled by corporate greed and short sightedness. Its a fantastic resource and it reminds me of the saying about those who know the cost of everything and the value of nothing. 1+1 aint always 2 guys. When its all gone and it will .. then we might realize what we've all done here.

N O, Pharmaceutical Adviser

"""A quick look on the P2U website shows the vast majority of deliveries are designed to fit through letter boxes."""

Fridge items, CDs, Emollients, Liquids (500ml) etc, what do they do???

 

Lucky Ex-Locum, Superintendent Pharmacist

And what about dogs or feral children eating the items once they've been shredded by their passage through the letter box? 

 

John Cleese, Production & Technical

If you have dogs or feral children, you presumably just say "no thanks" to letterbox deliveries. Simples. Personal responsibility, anyone?

John Cleese, Production & Technical

Well, I imagine they don't go through letter boxes.

But: you choose a home delivery service because you know it will work for you; you are told when it's going to be dispatched, and when it's going to arrive; you can select a different address if you wish (work? friend? neighbour?), or a "safe place" for it to be left. So, after all that, if "Dawn" has to go to the sorting office and she is furious about that, perhaps she does need to consider a different service. Luckily, there are both online and offline pharmacies, and there will continue to be so.

R A, Community pharmacist

Dear Numark, 

If you care so much for the independent pharmacies why don't you help by building an online platform that independent pharmacies can use to provide their services as online pharmacies rather than creating childish scare tactic posters as means to counteract the rise of online pharmacies?

Online pharmacy is both a threat and opportunity for existing pharmacies! Especially when bricks and mortar already have the staff and stocks! Another thing to note is that when the likes of Amazon enter the market it will literally be Armageddon for us pharmacists so please don't be a Dave and do something proactive. 

David Moore, Locum pharmacist

I'm seeing my solicitor! You'll get the writ in the morning.
Dave Moore

Leon The Apothecary, Student

"Eye for an eye, and we all go blind."

Smear campaigns always damage oneself as well as the person they are attempting to smear. I thought Pharmacy is supposed to be professional?

 

A B, Community pharmacist

Look foward to Numark/Pheonix/PSUK helping "the local pharmacy" further ending their DTP arrangements and their discounts/bribes for dispensing doctors.

Oh look, there is a pig flying outside......

Will Hayes, Ecommerce

I work for an online pharmacy and let me explain some things that we see a lot. 

There is a lot of negativity around online pharmacies such as...

Medicine takes a long time to reach the patient

Certainly in our case, this simply is not true. We receive scripts the moment they are signed and often have them dispensed the same day, delivered within 24-48 hours.

Online pharmacies are flawed by failed deliveries

Most deliveries fit in a letter box.

Customers can leave a 'safe place', just like they can for all their other home deliveries so failed delivered, at least for us, are rare.

In the event of a failed delivery, the customer can arrange re-delivery just like they would for anything else.

We don't care about the customer

Just because we are a distance pharmacy does not mean we don't care. I work closely with every member of our pharmacy team and I can assure you that everybody cares whole-heartedly about our patients just the same as they would if we were on the high street.

 

We take away the human element (face-to-face)

 

The truth is, a lot of patients simply don’t want the face-to-face experience I’m not saying all of them, but for those on repeat prescriptions a delivery of their medication is much more convenient than visiting a high street pharmacy.

In addition, if customers need help, assistance or medical advice, our teams and pharmacists are always on the end of a phone with little to no waiting time at all.

 

Bottom line is, there is room for all of us, - and there has to be.

Correct, it may be more convenient to get urgent items from the high street and correct, we can’t administer flu jabs or health checks – but we can deliver regular medication on time, every time, hassle free supported by superb customer service and an efficient pharmacy.

There are certain online players that may have painted a negative picture of what we do, but I can say for certain that it does not reflect online pharmacies as a whole.

Love to everyone in the pharmacy community, online and on the high street.

A B, Community pharmacist

Thanks Will from marketing. I'm not an online pharmacy basher, there is definately a place for them but a decent local pharmacy with a delivery service can do what your company does much better. Those in remote areas or not near a good pharmacy may need to use online ordering methods. 

Sam Pharmacist, Community pharmacist

A B. Have you read the dispensing goods at a distance gphc guidance. If a local pharmacy chooses to offer a delivery service, they have to follow the same guidance as an internet pharmacy. The rules and regs will put most local pharmacies off delivering

A B, Community pharmacist

Sam Pharmacist, I have yes. I don't think it is so much the rules and regs that put people off, once you have the right systems in place it's not too taxing. It is the cost that has stopped pharmacies providing deliveries or charging for them, which is where an online pharmacy could have a role. Distance selling pharmacies are not allowed to charge for deliveries. So the fact they say they keep deliveries free is a requirement, not a goodwill gesture.    

Leon The Apothecary, Student

I actually didn't know this.

Will Hayes, Ecommerce

Hi, I see your point, however there are a lot of local pharmacies either stopping local deliveries or beginning to charge for the service where as we keep our delivery service free with tracked 24 hour services. I guess it goes back to both of our points in that there is room for us all. It does bug me though when I see those who think online pharmacies don't care about patients and that the service is slow / unreliable - it couldn't be further from the truth for us. 

Richard Binns, Primary care pharmacist

not suggesting you dont do this, but one of my concerns with online pharmacies is that the opportunity to counsel the patient when handing the medications out is taken away (i.e. check patient understands to stop statin whilst taking course of clarithro). How do you manage this in practice, is there a policy to call the patient before delivery is made?

Will Hayes, Ecommerce

Hi Richard - I would have the check with the pharmacy but I do know that our pharmacists will always be in touch with a patient if they feel it is neccessary to do so.

Update: I just spoke with our pharmacy and they confirmed that this is exactly the kind of activity we undertake. We also routinely do this via the MUR service. 

If they can't reach the customer by phone, a note will always go out with the delivery to inform the customer of interactions etc.

Richard Binns, Primary care pharmacist

Thanks Will

Richard Binns, Primary care pharmacist

As a surgey based pharmacist one regular occurance I see with patients using online pharmacies is when they need an urgent delivery of antibiotic/Palliative care script after a GP home visit. Online pharmacy cannot deliver for 5 working days so local 'brick and mortar' pharmacy pick up the slack and deliver at a financial loss to ensure the patient is not harmed (even though the online buisness is retaining the viable repeat meds for the patient).

Not fair for the bricks and mortar pharmacies, acting in respect to the patients wellbeing (and preventing Hospital admissions by doing so!). But massively appreciated all the same 

John Cleese, Production & Technical

If dispensing and delivering a prescription means you are at a financial loss, then the system is broken, don't you think? Or you are self-sabotaging. Or both.

"Picking up the slack" - how negative. What you describe is an excellent service and is what bricks and mortar pharmacies excel at. There is room for both. If this results in a loss, then why are you not charging for making the delivery?

"Not fair" -  it's only unfair if you make it so. Yes, the contract has to change, and it will, but in the meantime, sort your business models out, and stop moaning.

John Cleese, Production & Technical

Oh look - Boots have started charging for deliveries. Maybe more should follow suit.

Leon The Apothecary, Student

Most certainly, Well, Boots, Lloyds are but a few.

Richard Binns, Primary care pharmacist

Im not doing any of the above, Im a GP surgery pharmacist so don't provide these services myself. I'm commenting on the situation my community colleagues find themselves in and how they regulary put themselves out to look after patients needs, often with palliative patients allowing them to die at home surrounded by their family as opposed to a hospital ward because they could'nt obtain their medication in a timely manner.

I was trying to make the point that from an 'outisders' perspective, it does seem unfair that a community pharmacy can act entirley ethicly and in the interest of the patient at a loss (they are making one off single item Abx script deliveries on short notice, when the online pharmacy is getting the patients 20 repeat items), the 'bread and butter' work which pays the bills is being diverted away from them.

sorry if you dont agree with this, but as I stated before I really appreciate the fact that local pharmacies provide this degree of flexibility, and the drive to using online pharmacies at the expense of traditional pharmacies personally concerns me.

Sorry if you disagree with this, everyones entitled to an opinion

John Cleese, Production & Technical

I know Richard, by "you" I was talking to "pharmacists" in general :)

Dispensing your hypothetical prescription should not result in a loss. Doesn't matter if you have 10 prescriptions for 10 different patients, or 10 prescriptions for the same patient - it's still 10 prescriptions. A single acute prescription is still a prescription. Online pharmacies also dispense prescriptions entirely ethically and in the interest of the patient, and absorb the cost of delivery without charging the patient - do you consider that to be an unfairness on them?

If you need flexibility, use a local pharmacy. If you can plan ahead, and want to use an online pharmacy, use one. Or not. There is room for both. Has Waterstones gone out of business? No - they are booming. (https://www.theguardian.com/books/2018/jan/18/waterstones-annual-profits-jump-80-percent-books-sale) Despite the fact that Waterstones are more expensive than Amazon. People are prepared to pay extra for the flexibility. So perhaps local pharmacies should think about this, instead of pretending they're charities.

Richard Binns, Primary care pharmacist

The problem is from the patients perspective is that the need for 'flexibility' is often unforseen, and the consequence of not having this degree of flexibility in an acute situation is not made clear to them when they sign with an online pharmacy.

There may be room for both, but if using an online service is at the expense of traditional pharmacies closing then I can forsee problems at certain locations going forward.

John Cleese, Production & Technical

I agree with the first point. But it's not all down to the online pharmacy. GPs have a responsibility here, to print paper scripts or advise patients to temporarily switch nominations if they need a prescription urgently. There is work ongoing at NHS-D to introduce an "acute" flag on EPS scripts, I believe, which will help in the longer term. And a contract change will help too.

There is no evidence that any pharmacies have closed as a direct result of online pharmacy usage. I'm sure there will some consolidation and reshuffling of branches in the coming years, but that's business. They won't all disappear. If there is a need, it will be filled.

Leon The Apothecary, Student

An acute/urgent flag in EPS would definitely be most welcome. I can certainly attest to when patients come in straight after seeing a doctor. It's just a small thing, but it helps greatly in time managing a day.

Richard Binns, Primary care pharmacist

I wasnt aware of the temp nominations provisions being planned, thanks for that. should be usefull in other situations aswell, like when the patient goes on holiday and forgets their meds, or out of stock situations. then upon return dosent correct their nomination to their usual pharmacy.

Do feel that there should be some provison in any future contracts for community pharmacies to provide these acute services.

Sorry, if I am maybe judging all online services based on my experiences of a few, guess thats just human nature.

Everybody knows a dodgy Dave. 

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