'Pseudo' DSPs leading to local pharmacy closures claims CCA
A failure to properly regulate ‘pseudo’ distance selling pharmacies is leading to local pharmacy closures, claims the Company Chemists Association.
There is “clear evidence” that the majority of distance selling pharmacies (DSPs) are operating in breach of their NHS contracts, says the CCA. Over 70 per cent of DSPs dispense more than 50 per cent of their prescriptions to patients from a single postcode area within 10 miles of the pharmacy, it claims.
DSPs are intended to provide medicines to patients remotely. One condition of their terms of service is that they must offer to deliver prescriptions across the country, rather than just to local patients.
DSPs are not allowed to dispense medicine, or deliver other essential pharmaceutical services to anyone present on their premises. The financial savings that come from not providing patient access are offset by the requirement to operate on a national footprint, says the CCA.
“Pseudo-DSPs can operate with lower overheads and keep other operating costs down by only marketing their businesses, and delivering medicines, locally. By only operating in small geographical areas, they are starving local community pharmacies of vital trade. This evidence has been presented to NHS England, but we are yet to see any change in activity,” says the CCA.
NHS BSA data shows there were 374 ‘active’ DSP contracts in England at the end of 2022. The CCA analysed prescriptions dispensed by each to determine which GP surgery prescribed them. It concludes:
- 268 (72 per cent) are not following their NHS DSP contractual requirements in that more than 50 per cent of their prescriptions come from GPs in a single postcode area that is located within 10 miles of the pharmacy.
- 28 (7 per cent) receive more than 50 per cent of their prescription from GPs in a single postcode area. However, more than 50 per cent of their prescriptions come from more than 10 miles from the pharmacy.
- 15 (4 per cent) receive up to 50 per cent of their prescriptions from GPs in a single postcode area. However, fewer than 50 per cent of their prescriptions come from more than 10 miles from the pharmacy.
- Only 63 (16 per cent) receive prescriptions from across the country and provide the service expected of DSPs.
The CCA acknowledges that DSPs offer valuable access to medicines for many patients, and it is important that patients have a choice in how they access their medicines. However, it points out that gaining permission to open a DSP is much easier than it is for a ‘bricks and mortar’ pharmacy, as there is no requirement to demonstrate a local need.
As ‘pseudo-DSPs’ don’t have to pay high street rates, or provide face-to-face care for patients, the local targeting of patients creates an ‘uneven playing field’, disproportionally impacting local bricks and mortar pharmacies, it says.
The financial situation for traditional community pharmacies is dire, with each one underfunded by at least £67,000 per year. Since 2015 there have been 720 net closures, with 41 per cent of these in the most deprived communities, the CCA points out.
“By removing core dispensing work and associated funding from local pharmacies, these ‘pseudo-DSPs’ are placing the physical network of pharmacies in jeopardy. Patient access to essential face-to-face care is at risk.”