Pharmacy groups have called on the government to relax the rules around dispensing so independent pharmacies can operate a hub-and-spoke model.
The government should review the law that prevented the model being used unless the dispensing hub and pharmacy were owned by the same business, Pharmacy Voice said in its response to NHS England's Call to Action consultation, which closed last week (March 18).
The hub-and-spoke model could offer opportunities for independent pharmacies to invest in automated dispensing if this legislative barrier was removed, Pharmacy Voice said.
This would allow some pharmacists to focus on delivering services without being "too concerned about how the medicines are dispensed", it said. Medicines could even be dispensed elsewhere and then delivered to the pharmacy for distribution to the patient, the PDA suggested.
This approach could improve patient safety by encouraging the use of large-scale robotic dispensing and bar code checking, which was difficult for smaller community pharmacies to afford, it said.
Their recommendations followed Boots' announcement earlier this month that it would trial a dispensing hub in Preston that would supply 50 pharmacies. At the time, pharmacy law specialist David Reissner told C+D that independents were disadvantaged by the current legislation, as wholesalers and buying groups were not permitted to supply dispensed medicines to independents from a central hub.
Both Pharmacy Voice and the PDA also used their consultation responses to call for NHS England to commission a national minor ailments scheme and align the GP and pharmacy contracts, and for pharmacists to take on a greater medicines management role by working alongside GPs.
"Pharmacists should be able to make simple changes when a brand is out of stock or the wrong form has been prescribed, without recourse to the prescriber. They should be able to supply NHS products on verbal orders without a prescription in out-of-hours situations," Pharmacy Voice said.
The PDA advocated a "named pharmacist medicines champion" to look after frail and elderly patients as they moved between secondary and primary care. These pharmacists could act as a "medicines-related bridge" between the hospital, GP, residential home and community pharmacy, it added.
NHS England will use the Call to Action responses to inform its strategy for primary care, which is due to be published in autumn.
Should the government change the rules governing hub-and-spoke dispensing?