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Scottish government ‘has not properly considered robotic dispensing’

CPS chief executive Harry McQuillan says the government did not consult the organisation before announcing its plans to trial robotic dispensing hubs


The Scottish government has not thought through its plans to pilot robotic dispensing hubs, Community Pharmacy Scotland (CPS) has said.

The government had not consulted CPS before it announced its plans to trial the hubs in selected NHS boards last month, chief executive of the negotiator Harry McQuillan told C+D in an exclusive interview on Monday (May 12).

Mr McQuillan said he was not convinced by the Scottish government's argument that robotic hub-and-spoke dispensing systems would save pharmacists time and he suggested the costs of distributing medicines from the hubs would cancel out any efficiency savings.

"If [robotics] are currently the most efficient way of doing it, more people would have them. Certainly, some of the owners I know in Scotland are shrewd enough to have looked at it and as yet [they] haven't seen the business case," he said.

At a health committee meeting last month, Scotland's chief pharmaceutical officer Bill Scott said the pilot sites would require patients to collect their medication from a central dispensing hub. Mr McQuillan told C+D that patients were unlikely to "want or accept" this model of dispensing.

The Scottish government has already held internal discussions on the possibility of procuring dispensing robots

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CPS had received "numerous" phone calls from contractors trying to find out more details about the pilot hubs since the Scottish government announced the plans at the committee meeting, he said.

The pilot hubs needed "a bit more thought" from the Scottish government and Mr McQuillan said he would raise the issue with them at a meeting this week.

Last month, Scotland's deputy chief pharmaceutical officer Alpana Mair told the health committee meeting that the government would spend the next couple of years working with health boards to gather evidence to identify suitable pilot sites to trial the hubs. The government had already held internal discussions on the possibility of procuring dispensing robots for the health service, she said.

In its 10-year vision for pharmacy, published last year, the Scottish government said robotic dispensing would need to be "harnessed" to create a health service "fit for the 21st century". Automating the supply of medicines would release pharmacists to spend more time on clinical care, the government said.

What do you think about the Scottish government's plans for robotic hub-and-spoke dispensing?
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Rehan Nawaz, Pharmacy owner/ Proprietor

I wonder how patient queries on delivered meds by these 'factory sites' will be dealt with. I presume the robots will have speech capability right? Will these patients who have their scripts sorted by the 'factories' still expect advice from their local proprietor?

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