Government plans to push for more click-and-collect services could make room for more online pharmacies like Pharmacy2U, the Royal Pharmaceutical Society's (RPS) Sandra Gidley has said.
The "biggest concern" is that the rise of click-and-collect services could result in a "big step in by organisations like Pharmacy2U", RPS English Pharmacy Board chair Ms Gidley told C+D. "We saw what happened when [Pharmacy2U] fell over at Christmas."
Pharmacy2U announced last December that it was experiencing “unforeseen, operational difficulties” resulting from its move to a new automated warehouse, meaning it was unable to deliver medicines to some patients between December 22 and January 11. It has since confirmed that its new dispensing facility is "working smoothly".
Ms Gidley stressed that online pharmacy services "take out the patient-pharmacist interaction". "We should be making more of that interaction," she added.
The Department of Health (DH) recommended that more should be made of click-and-collect services, in its open letter to the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) in December outlining its planned funding cuts. It described the current “online journey” for pharmacy patients as “slow and awkward”.
Pharmacy Voice chief executive Rob Darracott said the lobbying group has seen nothing that would justify “diverting a smaller budget away from frontline services” to pay for “an accelerated rollout of online tools”.
Although there is a lot of potential in click-and-collect services for patients, Pharmacy Voice had seen no data from the DH that patients want this service expanded, Mr Darracott said.
“We hear from patients that the core value community pharmacy offers is a face-to-face interaction,” he told C+D. “We can’t improve the service community pharmacy offers by diverting funding away to pay for peripheral things.”
"Not what patients want"
National Pharmacy Association (NPA) board member Mike Hewitson also said click-and-collect is not a priority.
“I don’t think it’s what patients want,” he said. “They’ve made an assumption that people in other retail environments like click-and-collect, but that misses the fundamental point that pharmacy isn’t just a retail environment.”