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Multiples struggle to add scanners in every branch by 2019

Every UK pharmacy will be required to scan medicine barcodes from February 2019
Every UK pharmacy will be required to scan medicine barcodes from February 2019

The three largest multiples do not have enough information to implement barcode scanners in every pharmacy by the "unrealistic" deadline of February 2019, C+D has learned.

The falsified medicines directive (FMD) – created to prevent counterfeit medicines from entering the European supply chain – will require every pharmacy in the UK to scan barcodes, check tamper-proof devices and decommission medicines to prevent them from being reused, from February 2019.

Although SecureMed – the UK group tasked with implementing the FMD – confirmed last month that IT service provider Arvato Systems would be supplying the database hub that will be used in the UK, it is up to each pharmacy business to decide how to implement a compatible IT system and scanners in their community pharmacies.

Not enough detail to make important decisions

With just 18 months until the directive comes into force, Lloydspharmacy parent company Celesio UK stressed that it still does “not have the necessary level of detail to make important business decisions, specifically around how the directive is interpreted and adopted in the UK for community pharmacies”.

“We are in the process of building the required IT system architecture,” Celesio UK head of prescription assembly solutions Danny McNally told C+D last week (July 27).

“However, there are still some fundamental decisions to be taken by the competent authorities in the UK, which impact on the sector’s ability to meet the timetable for full implementation.”

Celesio UK is awaiting “a response and further guidance on this matter”, he added.

“Deadline is not realistic”

Well’s commercial director David Hamilton also stressed that the multiple “urgently needs greater clarity on the detailed requirements of FMD”.

Well is “currently in the scoping phase” and “evaluating how FMD could impact our internal systems and processes”, he told C+D last week.

This includes “discussions about new hardware, such as installation of 2D data-scanning equipment in our stores”, Mr Hamilton added.

“The work required to prepare all community pharmacies across the UK is huge,” Mr Hamilton said. “We are urging key stakeholders to consider the most effective implementation strategy for the UK, and acknowledge that the February 2019 deadline is not realistic.”

Understanding implementation

Boots told C+D it has “an active role” in work by parent company Walgreens Boots Alliance to “understand what will be required to implement FMD” in its pharmacies across Europe.

“This includes work to understand and prepare for changes to IT systems and operational processes in pharmacy and wholesaling.”

Gareth Jones – the National Pharmacy Association representative on the SecureMed Group – told C+D last month that FMD is “not compatible” with hub-and-spoke dispensing, and that Brexit is creating uncertainty for the directive's implementation.

Is your pharmacy preparing for the falsified medicines directive?

CAPT FX, Locum pharmacist

Here we go again. Talk about technology and this profession starts mourning as if someone is asking them to climb Kilimanjaro on a wheelchair. I have yet to see or hear of a situation where our profession will confront issues with a can-do attitude.

What is being asked for here is not rocket science. It is the same scenario from a few years back when the Department of Health provided Infractructure payments and support for EPS 1 and 2. The financial details are all in the drug tariff. If these funds had been utilized to provide the hardware and software requirements then, we would not be mourning once again. We have a situation where in particular the big multiples channelled that money to their profit and loss accounts with the result that most the branch computer hardware is very stone age, to say the least. How can anyone justify a branch computer with 252MB of RAM and 500MB storage in 2017? My Android phone has 4G of RAM and 128G of storage. Most computers are so slow, you want to scream and at times wish we reverted to typewriters.

One big multiple have scanners which are completely non-functional and have never worked from day one. They are there in case someone comes and they argue that the intent was there. This is Community Pharmacy executive action at its best. All show and a remarkable ability to preserve deniability. I wonder why the Department of Health can go on supporting a Profession that is always using deceit when made to account for funding. We are simply not worth the noise we always make when the Department of Health announces cuts. 

The scanners which are being asked for here are pretty basic and can easily be incorporated into our existing software. I doubt that the people who commented on behalf of the quoted multiples know anything about computer hardware and software. They just went into a can't do, we can not afford it attitude as usual. Community Pharmacy's investment into technology has been mediocre to non-existent which is why our first response is negative when confronted with news like this. 

We have to move with the times and match what is happening around the world otherwise we will always be the weak link in efforts to combat counterfeit medicines. It is indeed retrogressive for anyone to talk about Brexit on matters that deal with international standards. The days are long gone when the UK can boast of being a leader, particularly where Community Pharmacy is concerned.



max falconer, Superintendent Pharmacist

This is a ridiculous piece of EU nonesense. I have asked this question of the PSNC & NPA: how many cases of fully authenticated cases of counterfeit medication entering the bricks & mortar UK pharmacy supply chain have there been? It would appear to be a big fat ZERO! This is a sledgehammer to crack a non-existent nut. We should send the message loud and clear that we will, certainly voluntarily, have nothing to do with this nonsense and if we have towe want it fully funded. The average pharmacy probably supplies in the region of 1500 packs of meds each day. Even if it only took 3s to scan each pack that's 1.25hrs daily or around 400 hrs per year. thats a minum extra cost of over £3k per year or around £36m per annum added costs to community pharmacy as a whole.PSNC please send the message loud and clear- NO WAY, NO POINT!!





Angela Channing, Community pharmacist

Has anyone thought of the massive workload on the poor pharmacy staff? 

Nevermind the scanners for FMD... Scanners for eps tokens still not working with the bank.

Susan M Shepherd, Community pharmacist

While technical solutions may exist for the scanning, there are some very significant and potentially expensive issues still to be settled.

Apart from the part pack, dossette/MDS and hub + spoke issues raised above, one of the main problems is at what point is the stock "decommisioned", ie cannot be reissued? At the time of assembly of the prescription or when it is handed out? If you opt for the former, what happens if the patient does not collect the prescription or says that they do not want that item this month? Decommissioned stock cannot be returned to your shelves for re-use, even though it has not been given to a patient. Who will carry the cost of all that discarded medication? Not likely to be the government.

If you opt for decommissioning at the time of handing out the medication, it means that everything has to be taken from the bag, each box scanned and then the prescription repacked. Potentially extremely time consuming and the very real risk of items being left out or mixed up with other patients medication. Plus handing out cannot be delegated to counter staff, as decommissioning needs to be done in an area out of the public eye, in order to maintain patient confidentiality.

So who is going to pay for the equipment, software, staffing, re-layout of your dispensary/medicines  counter to provide the space, medicines wasteage, etc. The big boys are more likely to be dragging their heels over these money issues (which will affect independents too), than over whose equipment they buy.

Kieran Eason, Superintendent Pharmacist

Why can't it be linked to the spine? Instead of another seperate scanning system. 

I guess that would be too easy


Shamir Patel, Community pharmacist


FMD isn’t compatible with British  practices. It’s about scanning full packs out of the dispensary.

1. What about weekly dossettes 

2. What about split packs

3. Packs are to be scanned on collection not on dispensing




Andy Burrells, Community pharmacist

Personally, I don't think FMD will come into English and Welsh practice for this and many other reasons. Its an absolutely ridiculous idea to prevent minute problems

Jonny Johal, Pharmacy Area manager/ Operations Manager

FMD is a very necessary safeguard for patients, as this news item shows. I did have communication with the MHRA, who saw the pharmacists and wholesalers involved as victims and they were not prosecuted. They may not be that lenient in the future.

Leon The Apothecary, Student

I'd love to see a logical return to whole-pack only dispensing. Make my life so much easier.

Jonny Johal, Pharmacy Area manager/ Operations Manager

Instead of incentives to implement, I suggest penalties for failure to implement (it is a patient safety measure afterall) which will serve to encourage some focused action. 

Sharon Stone, Communications

Very good point Sau Sheung , these multiples have had too many carrots and not enough stick .

jack The-Lad, Communications

Oh Dear, Boots and Lloyds in the spot light yet again, surprise surprise, dragging their feet when they don't get a profit out of something .  Perhaps someone should link MUR/NMS payment to this, it would be done tomorrow .

Adam Smith, Senior Management

All the potential solutions are out there - the choice seems to be between an intergrated solution with your PMR System suppliers or a stand alone solution like Tracelink - it's actually not that complicated, pharmacies must have an honest discussion around cost and functionality with potential solution providers. 

Dave Downham, Manager

...but unwilling to have a conversation for something with no perceived value whatsoever. As soon as Boots get fined, then the industry will sit up and take heed.

Sharon Stone, Communications

To Dave Downham. Now who's being infantile and unrealistic???? ( those were your words you chose for me ). Boots won't get fined, they all go to the same "drinking hole" as the regulator !!!. When was the last time Boots got fined for anything ??????? Very unhelpful ( again one of your quotes )

Dave Downham, Manager

If I. Were you, I would check whos been calling you names. Once you have, I will gladly accept your apology. I stand by my point - unless one of the big boys a kicking, no-one will give 2 hoots.

Sharon Stone, Communications

Dave Downham- please accept my sincere apology --it was Dave Williams - Community Pharmacist and Mugwump

Dave Downham, Manager

Accepted. Plenty of mugwumps around.

Sharon Stone, Communications

Boots ( Wallgreens ) has the very latest technology to help them "take your money" , ie make it faster, knows buying habits , apps etc so it it seems highly implausible that Boots and Lloyds ( who are also significant wholesaler ) state they are not ready. Utter rubbish . Its more likely both of these companies dislike investing when they don't get a financial return .  

Call Me Cycnical, Senior Management

What a load of crap! Pharmacy has had over 3 years notice about FMD coming into effect. They have hung off the back of Brexit as an excuse to do nothing.

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