Andy Weinronk, pharmacist and director of four pharmacies in north-west England, said that on one branch's monthly bill he found that instead of “1 pence per [local] call”, calls to wholesalers had cost him “£1 a call – so it's costing 100 times as much”.
On the same bill, “£13 out of the £21 of call charges” had been the result of “13 calls to two wholesalers”, Mr Weinronk said last week (December 8).
“If you multiply that over all of my pharmacies, you’re talking about £600 to £700 a year, which is money I can’t afford at the minute,” he said.
Quota system is a “bit of a joke”
Mr Weinronk argued that wholesalers are “making money on the back of the quota systems they’ve got in place”.
These systems have “become a bit of a joke”, as pharmacists have to “beg for stock”, he claimed.
“The same thing happens every month from about the 20th,” he stressed. “We have to physically phone them up and…prove that we've got prescriptions.”
Citing this quarter’s phone bills, he said it was “the inordinate length of time” spent on hold or “waiting for somebody to get the right person to increase our quota [that] was causing these bills to mount up”.
Wholesalers use premium numbers
Shilan Shah, co-owner of Mountford Pharmacy in Barnet, London, described the premium numbers used by some wholesalers as “bank robbery”, as he has waited up to half an hour to speak to someone.
Naming Alliance Healthcare as “huge culprits”, Mr Shah pointed out the wholesaler is the sole distributor of “so many pharmaceutical products”. You can read Alliance's response below.
Mr Shah has noticed his phone bill rise in the “region of 20%” in “the last four to six months”, he told C+D.
“It might seem small, but it is adding to the big pool of things that have gone up,” Mr Shah said. “One month could be a rise of 20-40% on your phone bill.”
Michael Lennox, chief executive of Somerset local pharmaceutical committee, told C+D: “We’re getting feedback that people are spending their life on the phone, trying to resolve supply issues.”
Alliance Healthcare responds
Alliance Healthcare told C+D yesterday (December 15) that it takes “all customer feedback very seriously” and will “respond proactively to ensure we are meeting the needs of pharmacists, and their patients”.
The wholesaler will implement standard rate customer service numbers from January 2018, it added.
“This announcement is part of a wider, intensive programme of activity within our business to further drive improvements and new innovations, always putting our customers first.”