Pharmacy2U facility rejected from pharmaceutical list dispenses more than 1 million NHS prescriptions per month

Exclusive: NHS Resolution rejected the Leicestershire facility's inclusion on the pharmaceutical list in January 2020, a requirement for opening any new NHS pharmacy in England.
Pharmacy2U website on laptop screen

Pharmacy2U is dispensing over 1 million NHS prescription items per month from a facility it owns in Leicestershire despite having its application to be included on the pharmaceutical list refused by the NHS’s litigation arm.

NHS Resolution refused the application in January 2020 for Pharmacy2U’s Leicestershire facility to be included on the pharmaceutical list, a requirement for opening any new NHS pharmacy in England.

This followed an appeal by LloydsPharmacy against an earlier decision to grant approval for the Pharmacy2U site on the grounds that NHS England “applied the wrong test” to the application.

In the decision document, NHS Resolution said it reassessed the evidence presented with Pharmacy2U’s initial application and found that it was “not satisfied that all essential services were likely to be secured in a safe and effective manner”.

It added that it was “not satisfied that all essential services were likely to be secured without interruption during the opening hours” or that “all essential services were likely to be secured for persons anywhere in England”.

Department of Health and Social Care guidance on assessing applications to provide NHS pharmaceutical services, published in 2013, says that distance-selling premises “must be included in a pharmaceutical list in the health and wellbeing board area in which the premises are located in order to provide NHS pharmaceutical services”.

“If they are not included in such a list, they may not provide NHS pharmaceutical services,” the guidance says.

Data obtained from Pharmacy2U by The Pharmaceutical Journal under the Freedom of Information Act show that the number of monthly NHS prescription items being dispensed and delivered directly to patients from the pharmacy’s Leicestershire facility has increased from 28,718 items in November 2020 to 1,153,920 items in February 2024. Pharmacy2U also operates a facility in Leeds, which is on the pharmaceutical list.

A spokesperson for Pharmacy2U told The Pharmaceutical Journal: “The Leeds and Leicester facilities operate under the existing hub-and-spoke arrangements and within the same company. We are operating in accordance with current medicines legislation.”

However, Conor Daly, a pharmacist, non-practising barrister and partner at pharmacy market consulting firm Rushport Advisory LLP, said: “Whilst Pharmacy2U operates two pharmacies, only one of these is permitted to provide NHS pharmaceutical services and that is its original site in Leeds, with the other site in Leicester simply being a private, or ‘non-NHS’ pharmacy.

“Whilst a hub-and-spoke model would allow the assembly of prescriptions in the Leicester hub, it would not permit dispensing from a hub as it is not an NHS pharmacy.”

David Reissner, chair of the Pharmacy Law and Ethics Association and honorary professor of pharmacy and medicines law at the University of Nottingham, told The Pharmaceutical Journal: “The whole system of market entry is based on applications for inclusion in the pharmaceutical list of premises from which to provide pharmaceutical services.”

The latest General Pharmaceutical Council premises inspection report for Pharmacy2U’s Leicestershire facility, dated February 2023, said: “The first part of the person’s journey through the pharmacy’s dispensing service was managed by teams who were based at and managed through the company’s other pharmacy located in Leeds.”

Once prescriptions have been clinically checked — by a team of pharmacists, including the Responsible Pharmacist at the Leicestershire facility — a dispensing label created and an accuracy check completed, prescriptions can then be “dispensed” at either of the company’s two pharmacies, the report added. The Leicestershire pharmacy then delivers medicines directly to patients.

The report concluded that the facility met all the standards for registered pharmacies.

When asked how Pharmacy2U’s Leicestershire facility can provide pharmaceutical services when it is not on the pharmaceutical list, Lewis Parker, commissioning manager — pharmacy, optometry and dental, East Midlands primary care team, which works on behalf of five integrated care boards (ICBs) in the East Midlands, said: “[Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland ICB] does not have a contractual relationship with Pharmacy2U Ltd.”

As a result, he said the board was “unable to comment on any hub-and-spoke arrangements that the company may have put in place”.

Last updated
The Pharmaceutical Journal, PJ, July 2024, Vol 313, No 7987;313(7987)::DOI:10.1211/PJ.2024.1.322477

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