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Pharmacy automation

Government rethinks hub and spoke dispensing proposals

The government is to reconsider its plans for hub and spoke dispensing, according to health minister Alastair Burt.

Stephen Pound, Labour MP for Ealing North, asked the health secretary if the consultation on dispensing models, which ended in May 2016, would be reopened to allow stakeholders to look at revised information on their safety. The consultation originally sought to make legislative changes that would enable hub and spoke dispensing across pharmacies that were not part of the same business.

In a written response dated 7 June 2016, Burt said the consultation did not rely on any specific safety profile of hub and spoke dispensing.

“Instead, the consultation document specifically asked consultees to provide evidence on the issue. Nevertheless, the responses to the consultation have raised issues around removing the bar on hub and spoke dispensing between retail pharmacies that are not part of the same business that the Department [of Health] would like to explore in more detail with stakeholders’ representatives before progressing any legislation.”

He added: “The government does not now envisage changes to the legislation on this issue commencing on 1 October 2016.”

Several pharmacy organisations have welcomed the move. The Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) says it is “delighted that the government has acknowledged some of the issues”. The PSNC, which negotiates the community pharmacy contract for England, also called on the government to recognise other shortcomings contained in its proposals for the sector that were announced at the end of 2015 and which included a £170m cut in the pharmacy budget.

Ian Strachan, chair of the National Pharmacy Association, a trade association for independent community pharmacies, called for the “entire policy package foisted on the sector in December [2015] to be sense checked in the light of this development”.

“At the very least, it surely calls into question the timing of the proposed funding cuts, which the DH has suggested could be absorbed because of the supposed cost savings from hub and spoke,” he says.

Pharmacy Voice, an association of trade bodies representing community pharmacy in England, described the announcement as “very welcome news”. Rob Darracott, its chief executive, says: “No one is against attempts to create a level playing in the options available to pharmacy businesses, but we do not believe these proposals would achieve this at the current time.”

Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal DOI: 10.1211/PJ.2016.20201262

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  • Health minister Alistair Burt
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