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DH: A third of eligible pharmacies will use hub and spoke

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DH: A third of eligible pharmacies will use hub and spoke

Government projections suggest that a third of eligible pharmacies will have passed on some of their dispensing work to a central hub by the 10-year point if proposals on hub and spoke legislation are brought forward. 

The Government published an impact assessment last week on the possible ramifications of its proposed legislative changes that would allow hub and spoke dispensing to take place among separate business entities. 

It said that out of a total of 11,185 community pharmacies in England, there are 4,122 that do not currently use hub and spoke and would be in a position to use it because they have sufficient dispensing volume – around 5,000 items per month minimum.

Of these, the Department of Health and Social Care expects 181 pharmacies to adopt hub and spoke in the first year after any change in the law, with 907 pharmacies anticipated in year 5 and 1,319 by year 10 – equating to 32 per cent of all eligible pharmacies. 

The DHSC also referred to private market research indicating that around 12 per cent of independent pharmacies have “definite intentions” to use hub and spoke, while a further 40 per cent would consider it, though it said this data should be approached with caution.

The department noted that an estimated six out of 12 businesses with enough dispensing volume to invest in a viable hub of their own have already done so, adding: “We do not know why the remaining six businesses do not make use of hub dispensing.”

Setting out its “key assumptions” on what will happen if the proposals are carried, the Government said hub and spoke dispensing would save 8p per item in operating costs, and that the average set-up costs for spoke pharmacies would be in the region of £4,000. 

According to the impact assessment, the typical pharmacy acting as a spoke will pass on 40-60 per cent of its items to the hub. Using the mid-post of this range, the Government estimates that by year 10 around 75 million items will be processed by hubs, or seven per cent of all items dispensed in England.

The DHSC said that alongside the legislation changes, which are aimed at freeing up pharmacists’ time to offer more patient-facing services, it planned to “change the way funding is distributed across services,” prompting speculation that the current dispensing fee of £1.29 per item may come under review.

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