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Benjamin D'Montigny: Moving online is not the solution

"Instead of looking to set up yet another click-and-collect system, perhaps we could start by modernising a few simple things"

There are more obvious ways to save NHS money than turning to the internet, says Benjamin D'Montigny

Looking back at a recent article on how the government wants to save cash by moving pharmacy services online, I’m left thinking there are far easier methods available – most of them to do with efficiency and avoiding waste.

I’ve spoken before about waste in community pharmacy, specifically in regards to excessive ordering of medicines for a variety of reasons – whether it’s for patients who are worried that if they don’t order an item then they won’t be able to have it prescribed again, those who keep medicines aside “just in case”, or those who are not engaged in optimising their medicine use. Either way, there’s plenty of scope for improvement in this area.

I’ve witnessed at least one repeat ordering system at one of the big three multiples where medicines are ordered by dispensing date, regardless of when the patient picks up. Naturally, overlap occurs and so the medicine waste begins.

In this instance, it would be far better to order based on the date the patient collects their medicines. Or, even better yet – if we were all following guidelines – we’d be using the electronic prescription service (EPS) for repeat dispensing by now; although the training in this regard has, from my humble experience over the past six months, been quite lacking.

Another issue is the cost incurred through bulk prescribing. Six months’ worth of medication on one prescription not only puts a burden on the pharmacy that is unfortunate enough to dispense it, but also reduces the chances of ensuring those medicines are being used properly, if at all.

So where does this leave us?

A universal prescription fee, or even a watered down version of it, would earn the NHS several hundred million pounds, even before you consider the ability to downsize any prescription fraud services, resulting in substantial savings. A simpler system.

Adopting 28-day prescribing alongside EPS repeat dispensing is going to be a real saver in time, money and energy for pharmacies. How many times have you had to deal with a patient coming in for a prescription that’s not there but was on an automatic order? It happens a lot.

Instead of looking to set up yet another click-and-collect system, perhaps we could start by modernising a few simple things and fundamentally changing the way we do things first?

Benjamin D’Montigny is a locum dispenser working in the south of England

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7 Comments

Sachin Badiani, Pharmacy owner/ Proprietor

Benjamin, please could you put this on twitter and include Keith Ridge, DOH and PSNC in your tweet. They do not understand these ways will help to save money for the NHS... And I don't always agree with London Locum... but he is correct. Everyone is agreeing Pharmacy is going down the pan...

Leon The Apothecary, Student

Definitely, I also believe that the higher ups should seek more advice to those who do the job on a day-to-day basis, and know what pharmacy needs from collectively years of experience.

Chris Locum, Locum pharmacist

We have been doing this for a while and the reward is decreasing pay and deteriorating ( and now potentially dangerous workload in some places) working conditions. It will continue and too many pharmacists will roll over, talking about this great future which is coming ....

Leon The Apothecary, Student

Ah - the great future which seems to be focused on turning Pharmacy into Amazon Prime, and Dispensers into robots!

Leon The Apothecary, Student

Wow, the five-year younger version of myself called this perfectly!

London Locum, Locum pharmacist

Other more simple methods are already well underway. It's called low(and still going down) pay.

Leon The Apothecary, Student

It's true! I have seen a newly qualified locum pharmacist being offered work for £15 an hour before.

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