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Revealed: Has charging patients affected the multiples' deliveries?

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The four largest multiples have all made alterations to their delivery services in the past two years
The four largest multiples have all made alterations to their delivery services in the past two years

Lloydspharmacy, Rowlands, Well and now Boots have all amended their home delivery services in the past two years, but what impact has it had on their business?

Last month, Boots became the last of the largest four multiples to alter its medicines delivery service, when it announced that it would charge patients either a one-off fee of £5 or a 12-month subscription of £55 for delivery of prescriptions ordered in-branch.

Lloydspharmacy kicked off the trend in 2017, announcing a subscription-based service for customers in England wanting medicines delivered to their homes. Each patient can pay £35 for six months and £60 for a 12-month subscription.

Lloydspharmacy tells C+D that since then, it has also added the option for households with multiple patients requiring home delivery to sign up for £52.50 for six months and £90 for 12 months.

Housebound patients are still eligible for free home deliveries, as are patients outside of England, it adds.

Despite the fundamental changes to a service that has long been offered free of charge in community pharmacies, the multiple says patients have not been deterred by the subscription model, and it has not significantly affected the number of deliveries Lloydspharmacy is making to patients’ homes 20 months on.

“We knew when we introduced these changes that it would take a while for our pharmacy teams and customers to get used to them,” it tells C+D.

“Charging for delivery is standard practice in virtually every other industry, so the feedback we’ve received so far has been generally understanding.”

Pharmacy teams have been provided with guidance on communicating the charges to patients and customers are reminded that the multiple's online service still offers free prescription deliveries and a click-and-collect service, Lloydspharmacy adds.

The multiple also plans to introduce a track-and-trace delivery service in the near future, it tells C+D.

Rowlands: Increased footfall

When Rowlands announced in July 2018 it was scrapping its free delivery service for all but “the most vulnerable” housebound patients, managing director at the time Kenny Black stressed the multiple “can no longer provide an expensive, convenient service which the NHS is not willing to pay for”.

A year on from the announcement and Rowlands tells C+D that it has not stopped free medicines deliveries across the board, but is “prioritising deliveries to more vulnerable patients”.

The changes seem to have had a positive impact on the multiple, with the overall number of deliveries falling “in line with our expectations”, it says.

“As a result, we are now seeing increased footfall in branches, which enables the patient to benefit from health services and advice they wouldn’t necessarily receive if they weren’t visiting the branch,” Rowlands tells C+D.

It admits that it took time for staff and customers to adapt to the new delivery terms, but it is now “business as usual”.

Well's £10 million investment

Well Pharmacy invested £10 million into revamping its home delivery service in June 2018, which included adjusting the criteria for new patients requesting home deliveries under the terms of the Equality Act 2010.

There is no paid-for option for home deliveries, but they are free when ordered via Well’s app.

The multiple did not tell C+D whether the new criteria-based service has had an impact on the number of deliveries, or whether there had been any pushback from staff and patients since the changes were introduced.

Will others follow?

When Lloydspharmacy started to charge patients for deliveries, it said it was an attempt to change the sector’s attitude towards this service.

Scrapping free deliveries – which are “costing [the sector] a fortune” – would cut down on inefficient routes and numerous vans contributing to pollution and congestion, as well as encourage countless able-bodied people of working age back into the pharmacy, it predicted.

The multiple said that some independent pharmacies may choose to follow its lead, and indeed, a C+D poll nine months later revealed that 23% of pharmacies were already charging for deliveries, while 45% were considering it.

Has your pharmacy started charging patients for medicines deliveries already? Let C+D know by voting in the poll below.

Result

Does your pharmacy charge patients for medicines deliveries?
Yes, we already charge some or all of our patients
30%
No, but we are considering it
45%
No, we would never consider this
25%
Total votes: 176
10 Comments
Question: 
Has your pharmacy started charging patients for medicines deliveries?

geoffrey gardener, Community pharmacist

"Charging for delivery is standard practive in virtually every other industry"Sums up Lloyds understanding of pharmacy, why dont they outsource it to Amazon?

The latest changes to happen 2nd of September with pharmacies not been able to order medicines for patients is going to be a complete disaster can anyone tell me who is going to benefit certainly not the patients! Have doctors surgery’s ever heard of team work.They should try working with pharmacies not against them.

N O, Pharmaceutical Adviser

""pharmacies not been able to order medicines for patients"""

You mean REPEAT ordering?

One by one CCGs are doing this. They claim this reduces wastage. But, just like how the DHSC could not prove fraud by pharmacies here too there is no proof of any wastage minimisation. If at all anything has happened, then it is a lot of misery for patients and pharmacies. In some cases hospitalisation due to patients not ordering their meds correctly.

I believe only in GP surgeries with dispensing practice, they are not adapting this rule as it will affect their own patients.

SP Ph, Community pharmacist

Instead of all the talks, it would be interesting if we can get some actual figures. The figures of how many of these were existing customers, how many are new customers, how many are online etc. Without any concrete figure anyone can claim their decision was right.

Very interested to see where Rowlands get their figures from the share price doesn’t reflect this upturn in footfall!

Adam Hall, Community pharmacist

Patients generally fall in to two groups:

1. 'Delivery is free? Are you sure?' - these don't mind paying for the service, after all, they have to pay to have the supermarket deliver, and most things ordered via a website have delivery charges or

2.'If you don't deliver my medication I'll die and it will be your fault. But don't deliver on a Monday, Wednesday, or Friday as I'm out with my friends. And no, I won't pay for it' - "Entitled" doesn't even come close

You can decide which are the patients we want

ABC DEF, Primary care pharmacist

Pretty sure 90%+ of uk patients fall into group 2, if not more. And on top of that they are demanding hassle-free, owing-free, same day and time slotted delivery at their choice for not even a single penny. Even Amazon Prime don't offer same-day delivery and charges you £80 per year!

The problem with all pharmacies is the patients control the pharmacies other than the other   way round this done in fear of losing patients too other pharmacies,I would say stand firm  as it is a free service do you really want the patients who constantly give you the run a round and never appreciate anything you do for them life is stressful enough!

Farmer Cyst, Community pharmacist

Funny how the punters say the same thing wherever you are in the country

Overworked Pharmacist, Community pharmacist

Couldn’t have put it better myself!!!! 

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