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Xrayser: The lessons I've learned from hiring delivery drivers

"Our driver Roger was more suited to the role, since he exuded all the joy of a prostate exam"

Not everyone has what it takes to be a delivery driver, or to hire them, says Xrayser

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.

11 Comments

Uma Patel, Community pharmacist

We are the only 'professionals' who do things for free. No wonder we are taken for granted

Lucky Ex-Locum, Superintendent Pharmacist

Never yet found a delivery driver that doesn't moan about doing deliveries.

David Moore, Locum pharmacist

Remind me, why do we deliver to patients? Come to think about it, why do we do pharmacy in the first place?

A.S. Singh, Community pharmacist

You're dammed if you do and you're dammed if you don't. Funny how some patients think the NHS pay us for delivery and therefore have the right to demand what time they need the delivery 'because of social/obligatory' commitments

Leon The Apothecary, Student

I still think giving a nominal fee like a carrier bag 5p would have the same affect as the aforementioned. We saw a 90% decrease in their usage. Would this also work with deliveries?

Richard MacLeavy, Non Pharmacist Branch Manager

I have often thought of this carrier bag example whilst being handed bin bags full of unused medication for disposal.

Lucky Ex-Locum, Superintendent Pharmacist

If everyone did the same it would be worth a punt but we all know that Joe Bloggs pharmacy down the road would make a big deal of their 'free delivery service' to nick the punters

Graham Morris, Design

Yes, gross inconvenience to the running of a pharmacy coupled with the great cost of supporting the delivery system and the added dimension of delivering the wrong medicine to patients. Mostly unappreciated by patients because it's free and as an added bonus to the patient,  does allow face to face confrontation with the driver or pharmacist for errors eminating from the surgery itself. A true "win win" service in reducing profitability and increasing stress, second only to supplying controlled dosage systems.

Leon The Apothecary, Student

Reading about some counties where MDS is a premium service that a patient pays for. Always interesting to see if there is a change in perspective when a value is attached to the service.

Lucky Ex-Locum, Superintendent Pharmacist

If they had to pay there might not be so many of them who are out when the delivery arrives. It really hacks me off when someone rings up to say 'Sorry, we were out when the driver arrived' then ask for the deliveryto be rescheduled. Stock answer is 'If you can go out you can pick it up yourself.'

C A, Community pharmacist

Or they phone up to complain they have gotten the wrong medication, a medication has been missed etc., which always makes my heart sink, until you find out the wrong item was ordered and issued on script or they wanted all their medicines at once, and the missing item was the one you delivered one week/two weeks ago (or yesterday in a bag that their husband/wife/son/daughter/carer signed for and didn't tell them about).

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