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Well's refitted branch is template for its 'essential pharmacy' model

Pharmacist store manager Shezan Dar: We were working on top of each other before the refit
Pharmacist store manager Shezan Dar: We were working on top of each other before the refit

Well has given a branch in Manchester a major refit to increase space in the dispensary and install a prescription vending machine, in a bid to improve customer experience.

The Northenden branch – which officially reopened last week (November 16) – was “ripped down” and “rebuilt from scratch”, to increase the size of the dispensary and give staff more space to pick, check and assemble prescriptions, Neil Stewart, strategic lead behind the multiple's “essential pharmacy” model, told C+D.

The multiple has also installed a prescription vending machine, because “that’s the convenience that patients and customers are demanding”, he added.

Pharmacist store manager Shezan Dar told C+D: “We were very aware that 90% of the revenue that comes into the business is from prescriptions. But if you looked at the pharmacy, only about 20% [of the space] was allocated to the dispensary and you had 80% of a shop floor.

“[Staff] were literally [working] on top of each other.”

As part of the refit, the make-up range has been removed from its retail offering, Well said.

“Not just a physical design”

Well transformation director Chris Ellett said the branch’s new patient medication record (PMR) system has helped to increase efficiency throughout the dispensing process, so “customers aren’t stood in the queue waiting”.

“This is not just a physical design that looks nice…it’s about re-engineering how the store works and operates – that’s everything from process to technology.”

The “essential pharmacy” model is “liberating” the pharmacist from doing unnecessary tasks and “removing them as the bottleneck in the [dispensing] process,” he added.

Mr Dar said simple changes like moving the telephone has also helped reduce his workload.

“Before, the telephone was right in front of me so I had to answer the call. Now it’s [whoever] is collecting the prescription that will be in charge of actually answering the call.”

Hub-and-spoke dispensing

Mr Ellett told C+D the Northenden branch will also be operating under the multiple's hub-and-spoke dispensing model from next week.

“There’s no point having a store design that doesn’t link with other parts of our strategy,” he said.

The multiple plans to refit two more branches in England along the same lines, with a view to then transform branches in Scotland and Wales into “essential pharmacies”.

“This is a learning process for us. This is our first store…there’s a lot more we’ve got to do here,” Mr Ellett said.

“By the end of next year, we’ll have a blueprint of what “essential pharmacy” means for us and then we’ll work out how to roll that out in the business,” he added.

Digital strategy

The refitted pharmacy “seamlessly integrates digital [processes] into its operations”, the multiple said, with customers encouraged to make use of the the prescription vending machine and the multiple's online and iPhone app services.

Mr Ellett said: “Stores are going to play an important part in [our] journey for a whole host of reasons. Not least because some customers want to come in store, and some services we have to do in store anyway.”

For example, “managing acute [illnesses] is still quite difficult to do online. It's about giving [customers] that choice”, he added.

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What do you make of Well's 'essential pharmacy' model?

Delectable Skeptic, Community pharmacist

From GPhC's Standards for Registered Pharmacies.


Medicines and medical devices are:

...• stored securely

• safeguarded from unauthorised access..."

Seriously, I think some interior designer had no idea and surprisingly no one has picked it up.  Is there an invisible barrier I can't see?  Staff will be on lunch, toilet break, helping on shop floor, etc.  What is stopping public access and more importantly, the curious hands of little children?  I hope I'm wrong.

Looks amazing, good step forward into the 21st century

Leon The Apothecary, Student

I reckon it's the floor. Anything that doesn't use "old person white" as a colour is a win in my books.

Benie I, Locum pharmacist

Fantastic! Nice shiny new premises. Same or more workload and same or less pay. Tremendous! break out the champagne....

Sachin Badiani, Pharmacy owner/ Proprietor

Just curious. Why easy access between P-Meds area and general retail area. Also why would you want people to see what you are doing in the dispensary from outside window?

Benie I, Locum pharmacist

To be fair it makes it more difficult to hide some of the goings on described inthe dispensaries of certain multiples.

R A, Community pharmacist

I think this is a step in the right direction. Community pharmacies need to be designed to increase safety and that would involve allocating more floor space to the dispensary which in most pharmacies is a small area. However, like the manager said 90% of the profit is made from that area.

H W, Community pharmacist

Can anyone shed some light on the prescription vending machine? How, if at all, does this work out of hours (under current legislation) as prescriptions can't be given out without an RP?

Ryszard Cygan, Superintendent Pharmacist

HW, Community Pharmacist - Firstly, for more information about the Pharmaself24 automated 24-hour prescription collection point, please visit The Pharmaself24 is a collection point and is governed by the regulations around collection points (please read the GPhC guidlines "Guidance for Registered Pharmacies Providing Pharmacy Services at a Distance, Including on the Internet" which covers this) and hence why there are no legal or technical issues with regard its use. Imagine parking your delivery van and taking the wheels off it and the driver hands the prescriptions out. The Pharmaself24 is an automated equivalent of this. The big advantage is that it can be accessed by patients 24 hours a day and thus offering patients greater convenience and choice to able to collect their repeat prescription and giving them an alternative to, for example, mail order pharmacy, which we know is becoming an ever more popular way for patients to receive their repeat prescription and which is eroding trade from traditional "bricks and mortar" pharmacies.

Leon The Apothecary, Student

Doesn't Australia tend to use this technology quite a bit as well? 

Sachin Badiani, Pharmacy owner/ Proprietor

I saw this machine at Pharmacy Show. I liked it. Would it work in our area... let's see.

Delectable Skeptic, Community pharmacist

interesting that they seem to be giving toddlers direct access to P medicines to increase their OTC sales. 

Leon The Apothecary, Student

Nah, it's fine - the floor is a different colour and laminated so they'll fall over and brain themselves on the sharp corners of the counter.

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