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Well ex-CEO: We accelerated digital plans in response to Pharmacy2U

John Nuttall: Digital transformation was always part of our long-term plans
John Nuttall: Digital transformation was always part of our long-term plans

The UK’s third-largest multiple was prompted by Pharmacy2U’s “rapid growth” to “accelerate” its own digital plans, Well’s former CEO has told C+D.

While Well’s digital transformation strategy was “always part of our long-term plans”, former chief executive John Nuttall revealed that the multiple “did bring them forwards, probably as a result of competitor activity”.

Speaking to C+D in an exclusive interview in August – a month before he left the multiple to spend more time with his family – Mr Nuttall said Well noticed online-only competitor Pharmacy2U’s rate of growth was “particularly rapid, and we thought, actually, we need to accelerate our plans to look at this”.

Well began its digital transformation in 2017, with the announcement of an online repeat prescription service and a prescription delivery app. Since then it has continued its deployment of a hub-and-spoke dispensing model across its 780 branches and launched a digital subscription service called “Eddie”, for patients to order monthly supplies of Viagra Connect without having to speak to a pharmacist.

The multiple is only “part way through [its] digital transformation”, Mr Nuttall told C+D, but bringing forward Well’s plans “was the right thing to do”.

Find out how Mr Nuttall thinks pharmacy can survive the funding “doom loop” in C+D’s exclusive interview

Have you implemented any digital transformation plans in your pharmacy?

Ebers Papyrus, Pharmaceutical Adviser

Hope is the thing with feathers. What is the incentive for people to use P2U? Prescriptions can be ordered online with the surgery and local pharmacies can deliver for free the same day! I do think however they can become a strong player in hub and spoke when the legislation changes.

janet maynard, Community pharmacist

In two social environments this week I have been asked why Well is being so ineffecient.One patient was told she couldn't collect her prescription as the technology wasn't working to tell the staff where the script was! A suggestion that the staff could just look on the shelves was dismissed!

C A, Community pharmacist

Maybe there is more to that story... but yes you can always look on a shelf until you find the script. The problem with off site dispensing with all the multiples is that staffing levels have been "corrected" to match the "lesser amounts of work" being done in branch. So it's physically hard to have the time to do that without getting behind on other aspects dispensing, which is of course a slippery slope. 

Leon The Apothecary, Student

The initial staffing cut was 50%, straight from the onset. This caused massive issues within some branches who were already struggling. At one point, there was a pharmacy running purely on locum/relief dispensers and pharmacists, all of which were not trained to use the technology, so the problem compounded.

A.S. Singh, Community pharmacist

Did they also look at P2U balance sheet? Accelerated losses too

Alexander The Great, Community pharmacist

p2u are hoping that amazon or one of the big boys will buy them for billions :))

Leon The Apothecary, Student

Amazon definitely have their eye on the UK, there's already movement in the US, and Pilpouch is looking to take over MDS supply, an untapped market in the online scene.

A.S. Singh, Community pharmacist

Leon amazon have eyes only to capture data, they are not interested in the small fish of dispensing profits.

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