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Distance selling pharmacies face local marketing claims

Cherry-picking local prescriptions threatens face to face dispensing, pharmacy leaders claim

August 9th 2023

Tagged: Pharmacy owners' news England Research

By Ailsa Colquhoun

Distance Selling Pharmacies (online) are choosing to only market their service to patients in the local area – in breach of their NHS contracts, the Company Chemists Association has said in a new report.

‘Pseudo’ Distance Selling Pharmacies are threatening your local pharmacy claims that over 70 per cent of DSPs dispense more than 50 per cent of their prescriptions to patients from a single postcode area located within 10 miles of the pharmacy.

“By only operating in small geographical areas, they are starving local community pharmacies, who are meeting their contractual obligations, of vital trade.”

DSPs are intended to provide medicines to patients remotely, for example by post or by courier: patients cannot ‘walk-in’ to DSPs with their prescriptions. Nor do DSPs provide face-to-face care linked to these prescriptions. According to their terms of service, DSPs must offer their services and deliver prescriptions across the country, rather than just to local patients.

However, by removing core dispensing work (and associated funding) from local pharmacies – and dispensing GPs – these ‘pseudo-DSPs’ place the physical network in jeopardy. “Patient access to essential face-to-face care is at risk,” says the CCA.

The report states that only 63 (16 per cent ) of DSPs sampled receive prescriptions from across the country and provide the service expected of DSPs.

The CCA has called for all DSPs to be required to provide more than 50 per cent of their prescriptions to patients living outside a set distance from their premises.