Automated dispensing is "an obvious next step" for community pharmacy, but uptake will depend on a reshaping of pharmacy's funding model, the Department of Health's community pharmacy tsar Jonathan Mason has said.
The future of dispensing would depend "very much" on the way pharmacists were paid in the future, Mr Mason told a robotics in primary care conference in Birmingham on Sunday (July 3).
"If we have a separation of [supply and service] funding streams, that may well facilitate the use of automated dispensing systems, and pharmacists will be paid to do the things only a pharmacist can do such as advanced services," he explained.
But used within the current contract, robots could end up making staff redundant, Mr Mason warned.
"The current model may facilitate the funding of robots but it may hamper the skill mix," he said. "If people are starting to use robots that's great, but we may start to lose other pharmacy staff members, such as technicians."
Mr Mason predicted that robots would become an important part of the industry's future though.
"My view is automated dispensing systems are a future, perhaps not the future, but they will have a role in the supply of medicines to patients. It makes sense as we have so much technology now and automation seems an obvious next step," he told delegates.
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