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Pharmacies scrapping deliveries could be behind 'handing out' errors

Leyla Hannbeck: More patients collecting prescriptions can increase the stress in pharmacy
Leyla Hannbeck: More patients collecting prescriptions can increase the stress in pharmacy

Additional workload pressure brought on by pharmacies restricting their delivery services could be contributing to errors as medicines are handed out to patients.

Approximately 50% of the errors reported to the National Pharmacy Association (NPA) in the three months to September involved mistakes as medicines were handed out to patients, the association said in its latest Medication Safety Officer (MSO) report, published last week (October 31).

NPA director of pharmacy Leyla Hannbeck said the number of reports may “correlate to the fact that some pharmacy contractors are restricting their free medicines delivery services”.

This means “more people are collecting prescriptions directly from the pharmacy”, she explained, which “can lead to increased time pressures [and] stress for members of the pharmacy team, due to a busy workplace”.

In the three months to September, “a number of patients received medication not intended for them due to insufficient checks being made when handing out dispensed items”, Ms Hannbeck told C+D.

This included patients with the same or similar surnames inadvertently being given the wrong medicines “due to filing methods being insufficient”, and staff failing to ask for additional information, such as date of birth, when ascertaining the patient’s identity, she explained.

Restricted delivery services

In July, Rowlands announced it would scrap its free medicines delivery service for all but “the most vulnerable” housebound patients. It followed Lloydspharmacy’s announcement last November that it would start charging new customers for deliveries, in an effort to “take the lead” on the sector’s attitude towards this service.

Following Rowlands’ statement, Well announced in August that only patients who met its “inclusion criteria” would benefit from its free delivery service.

Almost one in four respondents to a C+D poll in August said their pharmacy already charges “some or all” of their patients for medicines deliveries, and 45% of respondents said they were “considering” it.

Has your opinion on charging for deliveries changed over the past year?

John Cleese, Production & Technical

Oh dear. Some very raw nerves have been touched here! The lady doth protest too much, methinks.

Karen Samuel-Smith, Manager

Could it be that the error rate is exactly the same, but if it happens in the pharmacy it gets picked up and reported, when it happens at the doormat it doesn't...

Charles Whitfield Bott, Pharmacist Director

Poor argument, no facts to back it up!

Farmer Cyst, Community pharmacist

I deliver the wrong stuff to patients all the time. Sometimes the wrong patient isn't in so I smash the package through the letterbox - Ramipril everywhere! There are some dogs with serious hypotension on my route.

-Delivery Driver for [REDACTED]

Really? Wow, Superintendent Pharmacist

Fake News!

Alexander The Great, Community pharmacist

Another pen pusher who sits in an office looking at statistics and making up correlations. Ive noticed the increase in errors correlated with me walking to work in the morning instead of driving. No. Work in the pharmacy and see how much pressure we are under.

Sunil Patel, Pharmacy owner/ Proprietor

@Alexander the great, your comments are not so great. It is absolutely not necessary for you to make such comments about people you don’t know. Nowhere in this article has it been said that the numbers are ‘definitely’ due to deliveries.

John Cleese, Production & Technical

That's very rude, and completely unnecessary.

Sunil Patel, Pharmacy owner/ Proprietor

I agree

C A, Community pharmacist

That's nice got any evidence to support it?

Oh is this just speculation day? Right here goes...

Locally surgeries have stopped accepting patient orders over the phone, instead asking patients to use online services or either phone or go to their local pharmacy to order their medications. This increase in pharmacy workload correlates with the fact that reporting of handing out errors has increased.

I think it deserves a title like "GP surgeries could be behind handing out errors."

There we go. Correlation =/= causation.

R A, Community pharmacist

More likely due to staff shortage/inexperienced staff.

Staff shortage = more pressure on existing staff to carry out all functions including the pharmacist!

Inexperienced staff = staff with little training unaware of the correct procedure.

Interleukin -2, Community pharmacist

Despite spending in some cases 20+ years in the same pharmacy!

Michael Embrey, Community pharmacist

During the build up to GDPR there were some comments that addresses could not be checked to confirm a patient's identity when handing out prescriptions. Perhaps this hasn't helped if anybody has followed through on this?

A RS, Community pharmacist

If anything it may be more likely to a higher level of reporting incidents related to data protection breaches. Not because of more peoples coming to collect medicines. Often there is just as much work load in segregating delivery patients, ensuring they are checked off with the driver etc.

However of course work load and time pressures have increased in other ways which may be contributing factors. I just can't see lack of deliveries being one of them

Marc Brooks, Community pharmacist

I really don't buy this as an excuse. More patients in the pharmacy is better for all concerned. The errors are from simply not checking a patients address properly.

RS Pharmacist, Primary care pharmacist

Nice picture of Leyla, but a poor article as once again there is no evidence. Handing out errors always occur because the person handing it out may ask for an address but doesn’t actually listen to the patient/collector.

Also how many deliveries are pharmacies doing per day that then became collections instead? Come on C+D, lots of us rely on you to give us information about what is going on out there, so come on and show us the facts?

Next week you will be saying, the reason for the increased amount of rain is because people have stopped buying umbrellas but instead are using the hoods on their coats!

Grace Lewis, Editorial

Hi RS Pharmacist,

As the article makes clear, the NPA has suggested that some pharmacies' decision to stop deliveries might mean an increase in workload for staff in store. It is the increased workload that could be contributing to more errors occurring.

Workload and time pressures are commonly cited as reasons for pharmacy errors in the NPA's MSO reports, which are based on reports from members.

Hope that helps.

Kind regards,
Grace Lewis, C+D news editor



Adam Hall, Community pharmacist

Has my opinion changed? No, No, No, No, No - a thousand times No! You provide services for free at your peril!

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