Pharmacy delivery drivers have always been a breed apart and quite unlike any other member of staff. But with the advent of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), it seems they could also cost us a huge fine when they cock-up the simple action of moving a parcel from one place to another.
I'm sure there are competent and conscientious delivery drivers out there, but there are also the incompetent and contentious. Having worked with several of the latter, I wasn’t surprised to read a C+D article last week suggesting they are responsible for one in 20 errors.
When we bought our pharmacy, it came with an old gentleman who turned up daily to collect and deliver prescriptions for cash – no questions asked. Like the typical pharmacy delivery driver, Alf was retired and looking for some company and an excuse to get out of the house. He’d worked as a dispenser in his youth, so had some knowledge and affinity for pharmacy. His wife didn't like him under her feet, so upon finishing work, he would sit quietly in the consultation room all afternoon until he judged it safe to go home.
When pressed into proper employment, Alf gave few personal details – it was only when his family told him, on his 80th birthday, that he had to stop driving that we realised his true age. Consequently, we ensured his replacement, although retired, was a sprightly 60-year-old. Ron was very pleasant and amenable and so, of course, didn’t last long. When you visit the sick and housebound, you certainly see another side of life – and it’s not for the faint-hearted.
He was replaced with a third retiree who was much more suited to the role, since he exuded all the joy of a prostate exam. Roger was such a miserable old bugger that he finally persuaded us to splash out on a company van, and employ one of our dispensers to drive it.
This was a revelation, because now at least we had someone who could talk knowledgeably to patients and surgeries, which supported our service and reduced clinical risk. It was also a revelation in terms of how much damage a dispenser can do to a van while only driving 1,000 miles a year.
We have had problems with breakdowns – of both the van and the driver – patients who are not at home, patients who are in but can't get to the door, patients who expect our drivers to perform the duties of a district nurse, and one patient who at 85 has his TV constantly tuned to a porn channel. We’ve also had a housebound patient who was treated by their family to a surprise holiday – who was all the more surprised to return and find that, when we couldn’t reach them, we’d had the police break into their house.
So every time I read of yet another internet pharmacy start-up that thinks medicines can be delivered à la Amazon, I just wish them well and hope they realise what they’re letting themselves in for.