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NPA and readers reject push for online pharmacy services

Ian Strachan: Elderly patients prefer face-to-face contact

NPA chair Ian Strachan says the click-and-collect model advocated by the government is "unevidenced"

EXCLUSIVE

The National Pharmacy Association (NPA) has joined readers in taking to the C+D website to denounce the government’s call for increased access to online pharmacy services.

The Treasury and the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills highlighted the need for the health service to “keep pace with the digital revolution” by ensuring patients have access to “online, delivery-to-door and click-and-collect pharmacy services”, in a policy document on Monday (November 30).

C+D readers were united in their condemnation of the plans. Community pharmacist Mark Brooks warned that more online pharmacies would result in “fewer pharmacies for the public to visit”, while pharmacist David Kent labelled the plans “another nail in the coffin of independent pharmacy”.

NPA head of external communications Stephen Fishwick said the organisation will “communicate our concerns about these short-sighted proposals to [the] government”.

“The document totally misses the point and betrays a lack of understanding of the pharmacy sector by the officials concerned,” Mr Fishwick posted on the C+D website.

NPA chair Ian Strachan branded click-and-collect models “unevidenced”. “Our patient base is primarily the elderly, who prefer face-to-face contact,” he posted on the website.

“Deliveries and repeat ordering are already well established principles in community pharmacy, so nothing new there,” he added.

"Logistical nightmare"

Superintendent John Alan James Robinson said the government's plans sound like “muddy blue-sky thinking”. “The logistics could be a nightmare – imagine the poor patient who is not at home [and] doesn’t receive their medicines,” he posted.

Community pharmacist Mark Collins said the policy document “has totally missed the point”. “The community pharmacy service is already incredibly efficient and offers a multitude of systems allowing patients to choose how they interact with us,” he posted.

Pharmacist Steve Jeffers asked for the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) to “point out to the government that most pharmacies already provide a home delivery service and many offer the ability to order prescriptions via a website”.

In its document, the government also pledged to examine the sector's payment and regulation systems to ensure they are "efficient [and] encourage competition and innovation".

 


What do you think of the government's plans?

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14 Comments

Laurence Tressler, Primary care pharmacist

I think the powers that be should be very careful of any proposal that could weaken the community pharmacy network. With the financial presssures that currently challenge the sector these developments could easily sacrifice some independents. With widespread collection and delivery services available, some pharmacies might not be missed initially when another pharmacy with a van will happily take over and the patient just accepts the bag from a different man. However I wonder how long it will be before a brave government realises that the NHS is not sustainable in its current form as demand increases, without imposing small charges for accessing services e.g fee to see GP and a prescription charge for most patients. At that point the community pharmacy network will assume a much greater importance providing access to face to face services managing responding to symptoms OTC and minor ailments as the "I can get it free on prescription" route would disappear.

Bapi Patel, Work for a health/commissioning consultancy company

I think the point is being missed. Roughly 80% of transactions are repeats and thru the use of EPS/collection & home delivery we do a great job of making sure that these patients are very well looked after. So click & collect for the other 20%? Delivery is a logical extension of the EPS model for patients with a nomination and finding a Pharmacy isn't hard for the rest who - if they choose - can look at numerous pharmacy websites that will offer to help them. So given this situation were is the advantage in click-and-collect? The online retail model offers either A) cost advantages that are passed onto the end user or B) the convenience of not needing to go to bricks and mortar premises. So forget A because drug costs are a given and so is the prescription charge and therefore no cost advantage can be passed to the customer and as for B then I think that the fundamentals of an acute script is that the patient will want their medicine PDQ and will in all probability head straight to the nearest pharmacy and if not then see above. So for me the threat is empty and meaningless - as is the rest of the treasury's document; read it and you'll learn how you can save £70 per year by changing water supplier. Frankly I can see no way of click-and-collect offering the patient anything beyond what they already get. We are a serious part of the healthcare system and we should have the confidence that we are already looking for every way we can to help our patients within the confines of the rules.

Mark Ashmore, Superintendent Pharmacist

"Pharmacies. The government will examine the NHS community pharmacy market to ensure that the regulatory framework and payments system are efficient, encourage competition and innovation, and facilitate online, delivery to door and click and collect, pharmacy and prescription services. This will save time for working people." Whether we like it or not we are lumbered with this Tory government for at least the next four years so lets reassure them that pharmacy is already competitive and innovative; patients can order their prescriptions on-line from the surgery, they can be sent via EPS R2 from the majority of surgeries direct to the pharmacy who can if the patient cannot collect them deliver them to the door. Problem solved and the government hasn't lost face.

Alan Nathan, HR & Training

I've no doubt that the government intends to cut down funding significantly for dispensing services. Taken together with a presentation by Keith Ridge at a GPhC conference on the future of pharmacy education a couple of weeks ago, in which he outlined the DH's aspiration to upskill pharmacy support staff, plus the desire to move to hub-and-spoke dispensing, it looks to me that the intention is to greatly reduce the number of community pharmacists and transfer much of their current role to lower paid staff grades. Maybe, GS, the government will then turn its attention to hospital pharmacy with the same aim.

G S, Hospital pharmacist

Most hospital pharmacies have or are already transferring to technician and assistant led services and cutting costs. Screening is done at the ward level, ordering is sent from the ward to the pharmacy by the techs/assistants. Orders for SLA contracts are all screened off site by pharmacists and sent via fax/email to dispense. All the dispensary work is done by band 2-3 assistants and band 4-6 technicians. Very much hub & spoke. The only need for hospital pharmacists in the dispensary is for outpatient prescription screening and a body as the RP.

Leon The Apothecary, Student

I tend to agree. If the RP rules were not in place, or allowed multiple sites to be monitored off-site, how different would Pharmacy in the community be?

Dodo pharmacist, Community pharmacist

Running a pharmacy without a responsible pharmacist would be like running an operating theatre without a surgeon or flying an airliner without a pilot.

London Locum, Locum pharmacist

R

London Locum, Locum pharmacist

Every day I care less and less for this silly pastime called community pharmacy.

Dave Downham, Manager

Forgive me for stifling a yawn.

G S, Hospital pharmacist

The elderly population is not always going to be the same. They are already becoming increasingly involved with technology, and that is only going to increase as the generations who have used technology throughout their lives become old. Pharmacy needs to prepare for the future across the board, as people are going to demand it. We already have electronic prescriptions now. The next logical step is for all pharmacies to have an electronic system for patients to arrange their prescriptions. This doesn't necessitate getting rid of high-street stores, it is just an alternative to systems such as using the telephone. The document likely aims to standardise what is going to be expected from pharmacies now, just because some stores already offer things like this doesn't preclude the government recommendations existing. Offering the choice of online, delivery, click&collect, also shouldn't lock patients into one system. So I don't know where Superintendent John Alan James Robinson is coming from.

Paul Miyagi, Information Technology

Yeah, I agree. Lets have some change for those who can use technology and give the dominant multiples a run for their money , who incidentally mainly foreign owned.- let private innovators have a go.

Harry Tolly, Pharmacist

I do. It comes from an inherent desire to protect existing community pharmacy monopolies and stick to luddite ways of working. The patient and the Profession should be the driver for our services and not the PSNC or contractors. Sadly, the situation will be manipulated by those with the biggest lobbying power. I am sure you know how the game works.

Simon MEDLEY, Community pharmacist

my dear mum who was verey computer savvy at 60 now struggles even with her email now- but she does know how to use a phone or walk through a pharmacy/surgery door

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