The unexpected closure of Pharmacy Plus has exposed potential weaknesses in medicines supply to care homes, pharmacy and care home bodies have said.
Representatives advised residential homes and community pharmacies to carefully assess any medicines supply arrangements they entered into. The warning followed the collapse earlier this month (May 16) of distance-selling Pharmacy Plus, which supplied hundreds of residential homes across England, Scotland and Wales. Pharmacy bodies suggested it presented an opportunity for contractors to re-evaluate their relationship with the care sector.
The withdrawal of Pharmacy Plus from its community pharmacy contract had a "massive impact" on residential homes, which had turned to local pharmacies to supply them with medicines, said the National Care Association (NCA), which represents care providers.
The care sector was reliant on pharmacies to deliver medication and the closure of Pharmacy Plus had been a "wake up call" for residential homes to make sure they carried out risk assessments of their suppliers, NCA chairman Nadra Ahmed said.
Care homes and their community pharmacy providers should both assess supply contracts carefully, representatives said
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Ms Ahmed told C+D that the closure of a large-scale medicines supplier was "not a common occurrence" but she could not "rule out" it happening again. Boots and Lloydspharmacy were the only two medicines suppliers that worked on a similar scale, she added
Smaller independent pharmacies also supplied care homes and there was "always going to be a worry" about these pharmacies going "bust", she added.
Local Care Home Chemist, a company that offers pharmacy services to residential homes, advised contractors to "plan ahead" when agreeing to supply homes.
"If you take on too many care homes at once without adequate resource, you can easily fall over," clinical director Asim Mirza told C+D.
"Retail pharmacies often lack the space and infrastructure to service large numbers of care homes efficiently and cost effectively but they do provide many services very well – sometimes at a loss," he added.
Pharmacy bodies said the closure of Pharmacy Plus was an opportunity for the sector to re-evaluate its relationship with care homes.
Numark director of pharmacy services Mimi Lau suggested that the Pharmacy Plus business model of "dispensing as many prescriptions as possible" from a central hub to care homes across the UK might not be the best approach.
"Care homes may have found this attractive once, but will they want that again in the future? Perhaps there is a lesson to be learnt here - that it is better to keep it local," she said.
Royal Pharmaceutical Society head of corporate communications Neal Patel said there may be an opportunity for pharmacists to become more involved in "making sure medicines are used safely and effectively in care homes".
Pharmacy Voice chief executive Rob Darracott said the closure of Pharmacy Plus due to cash shortages highlighted how "tight the cashflow of pharmacy businesses can be" and called for the government to simplify its reimbursement system.
"One or two difficult months, allied to a particular business mix, can precipitate a crisis," he told C+D.
Last week, Pharmacy Plus administrator Zolfo Cooper said 240 jobs had been lost when the company closed due to "a reduction in trading volumes and supplier pressure". The administrator was working closely with the NHS to ensure "minimal disruption" to care homes, it added.
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