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Why home deliveries could help you stay in the black

"Flexible home deliveries are a simple way for pharmacies to add value to their core services"

Despite the tough times ahead, pharmacies can flourish if they invest in home delivery, says Darren Taylor

Whichever way you look at it, the coming year will be an uncertain period for the UK’s pharmacies. Owners and managers are already under pressure to meet tough business targets with reduced resources, and impending funding cuts are likely to exacerbate this problem in a big way. Independent, community pharmacies are likely to be hit hardest.

The Department of Health (DH) will cut pharmacy funding in England by 12% tomorrow (December 1). The sector is set to receive up to £113 million less funding than expected between now and next March, and a staggering £95m less the following year.

To adapt to this new operating landscape, many of the UK’s pharmacies are embracing value-added services – such as smoking cessation or obesity clinics – to supplement their income, while reducing overheads in other areas. This attitude of innovation will serve pharmacies well, as long as cutting outgoings does not risk patient safety or make existing pharmacy services a less attractive offer in comparison with competitors.  

A recent C+D survey found that the number one way pharmacists are likely to seek to cut back costs is by reducing medicine deliveries to patients’ homes. Almost two fifths of pharmacists (39%) felt they needed to reconsider their current delivery offering in light of diminished funding.

Delivery is a fundamental expectation of modern customers, who are used to convenience being one of the most important factors in how businesses engage with them. It’s also a basic necessity for the elderly or infirm, who rely on the delivery of medication and will have no choice but to switch to an alternative pharmacy or use online pharmacies to service repeat prescriptions.

It’s possible for pharmacies to turn this time of uncertainty into one of opportunity, but the issue of home delivery illustrates the balance that they will need to strike to succeed; that of addressing both the population’s needs as patients and their demands as consumers.

Putting the customer first

The DH has argued that its funding changes will simply reward the pharmacies that offer the highest quality service, alluding to the increased competition that its move will introduce to the sector. This means that, although the industry as a whole will be put under more pressure, those pharmacies that are able to secure the loyalty of existing patients while attracting new custom have a huge opportunity to grow market share.

In today’s fast-paced, digital-first world, one way that pharmacies can ensure they flourish in a more competitive environment is to learn from the way in which businesses in other sectors have used convenience as a tool to differentiate their offering. The retail sector in particular has recognised that time is consumers’ most precious commodity, and that introducing services tailored to their customers’ personal preferences and circumstances can improve brand perception and loyalty, in addition to driving new customer acquisition.

Home deliveries that are flexible enough to meet a range of needs are a simple way for pharmacies to add value to their core services, demonstrate that customer convenience is at the heart of their offering and improve loyalty. In turn, this will put them in the best possible position to sustain or grow their business in challenging times.   

Darren Taylor is chief development officer at CitySprint Healthcare

Has your pharmacy run a business that you think could win a C+D Award? 

9 Comments

Leon The Apothecary, Student

I think you could control the amount of deliveries easily with a simply 50p charge, even less. See what the 5p charge did for plastic carrier bags?

Jackie Robinson, Marketing

Stop deliveries. ...lose patients !.....grow your repeat prescription patients portfolio.

Shaun Steren, Pharmaceutical Adviser

An advert dressed up as an article. Classy stuff! 

Leroy Jackson, Community pharmacist

Totally devoid of any sort of useful inforation this article. 

Lucky Ex-Locum, Superintendent Pharmacist

If every pharmacy offers exactly the same service there will be no competitive advantage at all so in the long run you'd end up losing even more money (which is the rock) but if you don't offer the delivery service you lose out to those that do (the hard place)

L H, Community pharmacist

"...so not sure what the whole point of this article is?"

Their new "Pharmacy to Home" delivery service I'd imagine.

https://www.citysprint.co.uk/Newsevents/Blogs/Our-new-Pharmacy-to-home-service-/

Valentine Trodd, Community pharmacist

Of course... An ad for City Sprint - didn't spot that.

C+D should really label these 'articles' clearly as advertisements!

Valentine Trodd, Community pharmacist

"In today’s fast-paced, digital-first world, one way that pharmacies can ensure they flourish ... is to learn from the way in which businesses in other sectors have used convenience as a tool to differentiate their offering. ... Home deliveries that are flexible enough to meet a range of needs are a simple way for pharmacies to add value to their core services..."

I think you're missing a very critical detail here... EVERYONE ELSE CHARGES FOR DELIVERY, EXCEPT PHARMACIES!

Good luck with getting Tesco to drop round an urgent can of beans on a Friday afternoon for no charge. Given your criteria above, I think pharmacies are exceeding the level of service in other sectors - so not sure what the whole point of this article is?  Can you order from Amazon and an hour later have a free delivery arrive at your door? I don't think so.

Maybe if patients (or the NHS) started paying per delivery we could visit them 3 or 4 times a day rather than the once and very often twice a day we currently do. Maybe we could do an Amazon Prime type deal for a yearly payment? In fact you're right - maybe we should learn from how other sectors do deliveries!

Hadi Al-Bayati, Locum pharmacist

Most people probably wouldn't object to a yearly payment, if it was standard across the sector. £50 for all deliveries is reasonable. 13 monthly drops plus acutes. Once paid they may be less likely to want to come in so less pressure on shop front. (Theoretically)

The problem is that whoever starts the charge risks losing patients.

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