The company that owns the Rowlands pharmacy chain, and the Numark pharmacy membership organisation, has purchased one of the UK’s largest digital prescription services.
Phoenix UK has bought Co-op Health for an undisclosed sum, in a move the buyer described as “market-disruptive”.
Announcing the purchase on 12 March 2021, Phoenix said the deal would “help independent pharmacies compete against the likes of Pharmacy2U”.
According to NHS Digital figures, Co-op Health currently has the 10th largest number of electronic prescription service nominations in England, with 23,848 nominations. Pharmacy2U topped the list, as of 5 March 2021, with 605,724 nominations.
Phoenix UK said that demand for the Co-op Health app had increased recently and it promised to “take it to the next level through its Numark and Rowlands network”. It also said the service would be rebranded.
Jeremy Meader, managing director of Numark, said: “We will offer a market-disruptive alternative: bricks and mortar aligned with digital outreach, which combines the convenience of online access for patients with the personal face-to-face professional advice people need, as medical conditions are quite often complex.”
In July 2020, the former chief executive officer of Pharmacy2U announced plans to set up an £8m automated dispensing hub for independent pharmacies, called HubRX.
HubRX will allow pharmacies to contract out their provision of repeat prescriptions, but it will not be operational until a change in the law that would allow hub-and-spoke dispensing across different pharmacies.
The Medicines and Medical Devices Act 2021, which includes the primary legislation that paves the way for hub-and-spoke dispensing to be implemented “across legal entities”, received royal assent on 11 February 2021.
However, a spokesperson for Phoenix UK said the purchase of Co-op Health “is not connected with or related to hub and spoke as the patient nomination and dispensing of the prescription will remain with the Numark member”.
“This is a new digital proposition for our members and in the coming weeks we will explain how they could benefit commercially from this new service offer,” they said.
In 2018, the Co-op re-entered the pharmacy market — having sold off its high street pharmacy business for £620m in 2014— when it bought the Dimec repeat prescription app.