Xrayser: How one of our wholesalers was beaten by half an inch of snow

"When the snow blew in, our continuity plan came out. The same can’t be said for all wholesalers"

If community pharmacy can be prepared for every eventuality – including snow – Xrayser doesn't see why pharmacy suppliers can't be as flexible

Since the dawn of humanity we’ve divided the world into those who are prepared and those who simply drift through life like a Brexit negotiation.

In community pharmacy, our most common example of the latter is every patient who leaves ordering their drugs until they’ve run out, and then panics with incredulity as we explain that their script will be back in a couple of working days – and, no, we can’t lend them a few tablets.

The suggestion that they call their GP for an urgent prescription separates the truly desperate from the laissez-faire – who recognise that it’s probably preferable to endure a bit of pain and suffering compared to the hassle of contacting their surgery.

For pharmacies, of course, there is no excuse for unpreparedness. We have standard operating procedures and contingency plans to cover every eventuality, from basic power cuts and network failures, to the truly awful once-in-a-lifetime events – like the tea and coffee running out.

Consequently, when the snow blew in, our continuity plan came out – and we were able to assure surgeries and patients that services and deliveries would happen pretty much as normal. It’s a shame then that the same can’t be said about those who deliver to us.

True to form, the least communication and effort came from our largest supplier, who’s lack of information, initiative, or inclination to implement an important imperative just demonstrated how there’s an 'I' in all those words and not in the word team.

Our local depot is less than five miles away on a flat main road, and yet we had no delivery from them for three days – while suppliers from two hundred miles away turned up on time. And you’d think at least that a week on from the apocalyptic conditions – that for us meant barely half an inch of snow – we’d no longer have to talk about it, but still our deliveries are as random as our Prescription Pricing Authority statement.

We’ve started a sweepstake at work to determine the number of totes that will be delivered. Meanwhile, the wholesaler's accountant has obviously decided to recommend the Catch 22 profit method – whereby we must call and get an authorisation number within three days to make a return, yet the customer service number hasn’t been answered for over a week.

And yet we stay with them, because we know three things:

  1. We have to use them because of the distribution deal we subscribe to
  2. To change wholesaler is more hassle, distress and costly than changing your spouse, and...
  3. The alternative options are just as bad, if not worse.

I’ve decided therefore I might as well cash in, sell the pharmacy, and invest it all with an online casino. True – I risk losing everything; the odds are loaded in favour of the house, and you come away from any interaction feeling cheap and used. But that’s how I feel about the service from our wholesaler.

And at least when the snow comes again, I won’t have to leave home.

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