The former chief executive officer of Pharmacy2U has announced plans to invest £8m to set up an automated dispensing hub for independent pharmacies.
The facility – called HubRX – will enable pharmacies to contract out the dispensing of their repeat prescriptions, while still performing clinical checks on prescriptions and claiming reimbursements.
HubRx claims the dispensing hub is the first of its kind, but says it will not be operational until legislation is passed that allows centralised dispensing to be shared between different pharmacies.
The Medicines and Medical Devices Bill 2019–2021, which includes the primary legislation that paves the way for hub-and-spoke dispensing to be implemented “across legal entities”, was first laid before Parliament in February 2020 and will have its second reading in the House of Lords on 27 July 2020.
Despite the move towards implementing hub-and-spoke dispensing, the National Pharmacy Association (NPA) previously said in a report published in February 2020 that there is an “absence of cost-benefit cases” for the model.
Meanwhile, the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee admitted in November 2019 that it had not seen evidence that the model saves money, but said it “may well build capacity” in community pharmacy.
Daniel Lee, chief executive of HubRx – who also founded Pharmacy2U in 1999 but left in 2019 – said in a statement on 16 July 2020 that the facility will enable independent pharmacies to adopt the ‘hub-and-spoke’ dispensing model and focus on delivering clinical services.
Lee added the dispensing hub will “create a level playing field with the big multiple pharmacies already benefitting from this”.
“Our hub will give pharmacies the option to outsource up to 70% of their dispensing workload, freeing them up to expand their clinical service role in the community,” he said.
The statement added that the company had signed a commercial agreement with Clanwilliam Health, which provides the UK’s only web-based Patient Medication Record (PMR) system and is used by more than 1,800 pharmacies across the UK.
HubRX said the automated dispensing system and the PMR system would be integrated to “facilitate the safe and seamless transfer of prescriptions to the hub and then delivery back to the pharmacy”, therefore “reducing the workload of repeat prescription dispensing”.
It added on its website that HubRx will have a ”flat service fee that means [pharmacies] benefit from larger-scale purchasing efficiencies”.
Mike Hewitson, a non-executive director of HubRX and managing director of Beaminster Pharmacy in Dorset, said the facility “would have helped independent community pharmacy tremendously during this pandemic, and it will be badly needed long after the outbreak is over”.
“The presence and reliability of local pharmacies has been vital for patients in these last few months,” he said.
“HubRx will help by filling prescriptions reliably and safely while releasing us to take on more of the clinical role we have been trained for.”
Hewitson led the NPA’s review of the hub-and-spoke model when it was first proposed by the government in 2016.
Gareth Jones, head of corporate affairs at the NPA, said: “The NPA has gathered evidence about, and analysis on, hub-and-spoke [dispensing] for several years. We have highlighted the pros and cons, the challenges and enablers. So, naturally, we are eager to hear more details about this latest development. It’s too soon for us to say whether our members will find it a compelling proposition.”