By Mike Hewitson
Independent community pharmacy owners and staff have been under relentless pressure for the last 18 months. With prescription volumes strong, despite the growth of online pharmacies it is easy to feel overwhelmed by the number of things that need to be done.
If your staff are anything like mine, they have been incredible, but we do not want to burn them out either.
In 2021, independents were called upon to take part in the roll-out of the Covid vaccination programme, but many were not able to grasp the opportunity because they found it impossible to get on top of the day-to-day dispensing workload.
Some still are.
It has been a brilliant example of why we urgently need to bring forward centralised hub and spoke dispensing for independent community pharmacy.
The necessary primary legislation achieved Royal Assent back in February and we’re now in the midst of industry and public consultations. This consultation will be essential in determining how the regulations should be updated so that independents can use this technology.
If I had hub and spoke dispensing switched on right now, I would not be worried about burning my staff out, because I could take a lot of the mundane pressure off their shoulders. This would allow them to focus their time and energy on the patients with the greatest needs.
With the launch of the Discharge Medication Review service in February, pharmacies must now think about how they handle patients after they are discharged from hospital, to help them get the most from their medicines and avoid unnecessary re-admissions.
This is an important integration with the work of the Primary Care Networks, demonstrating the value of the relationships that community pharmacy teams have with their patients. More immediately, with hub and spoke dispensing I could plan our Covid vaccination service more easily because I would know that the day-to-day work was being done reliably, efficiently, and safely.
Like many others, I am eager to get on with a fully automated, independent future with more of our income coming from clinical services. While online providers can dispense a prescription, they find it more difficult to give the face-to-face clinical care that many patients want and need.
This is how independents will secure their future, and soon hub and spoke dispensing will be there to help me make it happen.
Mike Hewitson owns the Beaminster Pharmacy in Dorset and is a non-executive director of HubRx