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'Why we've decided to charge new patients for home deliveries'

"Despite the talk of starting to change delivery services, few community pharmacies are willing to"

Celesio UK operations director Catherine McDermott explains the reasons for charging for Lloydspharmacy deliveries

This morning I received a text from a company delivering my new sunglasses. I was able to select a day and time when it suited me to receive the goods – for a fee, of course. Like most people, I’ve come to expect service that not only has an increased level of personalisation, but that recognises that I don’t have time to spare and wait in for delivery drivers. I wouldn’t expect to receive this service for free.

Contrast that with pharmacy deliveries.

What started out as a very necessary service for the infirm and chronically ill when there were few other options, is now used by countless able-bodied people of working age. Yet now, despite the ‘omnichannel’ age, we send our friendly delivery drivers to our customers wherever they are, whoever they are, and whatever their ‘medication’ – whether that is metformin, contraception or gluten-free bread.

We’ve painted ourselves into a corner and built an expectation among our customers that we are now too frightened to renege on. Virtually all pharmacies offer this service – completely free of charge – and it’s costing us a fortune, not to mention inefficient routes and numerous vans contributing to pollution and congestion.

In some cases, the delivery service may be covering up a supply issue or poor stock control. These are important business issues that should be tackled head on.

The truth is that as home delivery becomes more commoditised, there is less interaction with a pharmacist.

At a recent AAH customer advisory group I heard a lot of discussion about stopping free deliveries, but so many independents see it as a cost of doing business and believe that if they don’t offer this service, their competitors will, and they will lose valuable custom. Despite the talk of starting to change delivery services, few community pharmacies are willing to take a chance and, even though the financial pressures of the funding cuts in England are impacting hard, there’s no sign of contractors taking such a risky decision.

Taking the lead

That’s why we’re taking the lead. Lloydspharmacy is going to start charging new customers for home delivery and we are planning a pilot for charging all customers. Independent pharmacies may choose to follow our lead – some may not – but I believe that a multiple pharmacy making the first move allows smaller operators to make a choice.

Patients will still have access to a number of other options; our online service provides free delivery of prescriptions, and we also offer 'click and collect'.

We know that half of people take their medicines incorrectly; one-to-one contact with a healthcare professional allows us to reinforce lifestyle messages, educate patients about their medicine, and can contribute to adherence. Bringing customers back into pharmacy allows us to perform those interventions more frequently.

Patient safety is paramount and I would never compromise on that, but we should leverage the value of meaningful interaction between patients and pharmacists about medicines. We want to engage more closely with these patients, who in many cases won’t have had face-to-face interaction with their pharmacist for some time. This gives us a great opportunity to talk to them about their health and better understand their needs.

We currently deliver track and trace for our 'Enterprise' business customers. The infrastructure doesn’t yet exist for our consumers, but it is certainly my aspiration. We’re also looking at how we develop a value-added service.

I believe that community pharmacy needs to innovate to reflect changing customer needs, but also play to our strengths: the accessibility of services and advice that can help take the burden off an overstretched NHS.

Catherine McDermott is operations director for Celesio UK

20 Comments

Independant t Thinking Pharmacist , Locum pharmacist

 

Hopefully this will be a step in the right direction for Pharmacy - being paid for services that we provide . Services that prop up the NHS that we have beenrailroaded into providing due to commercial pressures from within . Unfortunately the cynic in me sees this as perhaps a push towards internet / click and collect type pharmacies  or have the powers that be suddenly realised you can’t carry out an MUR for a home delivery or capitalise on the list footfall 

 

Andrew Watson, Superintendent Pharmacist

 

 

 

R A, Community pharmacist

To put it simply Lloyds Pharmacy has consolidated the market and it knows that. 10 or 12 years ago the market was still fragmented so it chased for market share and profit margin was irrelevant. When reimbursement cuts began initially the chain passed the cuts off to its staff but now pretty much all members of the staff are on a bare minimum wage so this is no longer possible. Therefore the cuts will be passed on to the general public as otherwise, it will be financially unviable to operate.

The public will have little choice because they only have the choice between Boots, Lloyds and Well Pharmacy the independents are disappearing simply because unviable ones are either being closed or sold often to the highest bidder mainly the multiples. Therefore it wouldn't surprise me if the others follow suit. 

Next on the agenda would be the dossette box which is a loss maker/low-profit margin item. In some respect, I agree with Lloyds on the delivery issue and would support them if they pushed for a charge on the preparation of dossette box on the basis the extra revenue generated is used to ensure adequate staffing to safely prepare dossette box.  It is completely unacceptable that the NHS fails to reimburse for this service which is extremely laborious and time-consuming activity and done at a loss. Frankly speaking, if the NHS fails to reimburse for doessette box separately the service should be discontinued because at current staff levels I wonder how they maintain the accuracy of the dossette boxes prepared with staff cuts. 

 

 

 

Disillusioned Sussex chic, Dispenser Manager/ Dispensing Assistant

With all of this in mind, I do believe that pharmacies should be able to stock their shops to suite the area, NOT have two shelves of different size bottles of a product that nobody buy's and then goes out of date! Maybe putting that responsibilty back onto the manager the stores would make a profit again and then the pharmacy can ensure the patient always gets the good service they deserve. I did dosset boxes, as well as all the other duties needed, and patients who have these do so for their own safety, Yes! perhaps there should be more reward for this but, people who do this job quite clearly DON'T do it for the money! let's take pharmacy back to serving the community and not putting fat wage packets into the pockets of the top guy's. 

Leon The Apothecary, Student

Interesting topic to talk about is how most medications are not licenced for presentation outside its original packaging with many medications, not just the common ones like Epilim having limited stability data.

Mark Boland, Pharmaceutical Adviser

Community pharmacy is driven by business and politics, not science.

R A, Community pharmacist

Absoultely another issue is splits most people in pharmacy fail to realise the packaging helps to keep the integrity of the product but by cutting the foil left, right and center you compromise that. On the otherside of the continent i.e. mainlaind Europe I believe they dispense in original packs only.

 

Valentine Trodd, Community pharmacist

Why don't you follow through and charge for delivery with the online service too?

Locum Pharmacist, Locum pharmacist

Perhaps these online deliveries are not costing them a 'fortune' or 'contributing to pollution and congestion'. It's funny how she paints independants as scaredy cats waiting for Lloydspharmacy to lead the way by abolishing free deliveries when in fact Lloydspharmacy will continue to provide free deliveries.

M Yang, Community pharmacist

Honest words coming from this person. While delivery services are a vital lifeline for many elderly and infirm people, a lot of pharmacies now provide it to able bodied people. Too many of us are afraid to ask those simple questions to those we deliver to for fear of a backlash, myself included. I've had many patients claim some form of disability and we're not in a position to readily ask for some kind of evidence to prove their disability.

Ulitmately, pharmacies are not operating on a pro bono basis yet there seems to be some expectation that health care professionals should be doing their jobs for free. We need money to keep the lights on and pay everyone, otherwise the pharmacy would close and with it the very service we provide.

Barry Pharmacist, Community pharmacist

Another masterstroke by Lloyds and very nice of C&D to reproduce their PR blurb here. This is not about stopping branch deliveries. It is about moving patients towards click and collect or to use Lloyds online ordering. And who can blame them? Genius.

Chris Locum, Locum pharmacist

Advance your own cause - not everyone else. If we all stood together, there would have been charges for MDS etc years ago. The landscape might have been a little different (or lasted a while longer).

PoPeYe- Popeys Car Wash, Community pharmacist

Hear hear. Cutting each others throats beyond the scope of reasonable retail/medical competition has been the downfall of CP.

Andrew Watson, Superintendent Pharmacist

At the risk of sounding cynical is this simply a ploy by Lloyds to push its patients towards the free online service ?

Chris Locum, Locum pharmacist

Of course it is. Spring clean. Close a few duds which overlapped (and wouldn't sell to give someone else a possible foothold) and then mention the new charge afterwards.

Concerned pharmacist, Community pharmacist

It's another nail in the coffin for the walk in pharmacy. 

How cynical to paint this as encouraging face to face service. The effect will be the direct opposite.

Charge equally (or more) for the on-line service and I might start to believe in the motive.

 

Leon The Apothecary, Student

Lloyd's recent PR has been as subtle as an elephant in a china shop in regards to this.

Sham Kiani, Community pharmacist

Very brave move from lloyds! Hope the other large multiples follow suite! 

Ilove Pharmacy, Non Pharmacist Branch Manager

Yes, so exciting I can't wait!!!

Ilove Pharmacy, Non Pharmacist Branch Manager

Genius thinking. Perform a task and get paid for it. This could catch on....

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