For the purpose of this dilemma, we will follow the fortunes of a pharmacy contractor somewhere in the UK.
The owner saw an opportunity some years ago to offer free delivery on all weekly multicompartment compliance aids (MCAs).
One day a patient came into the pharmacy to ask if his medication delivery would be delivered to his house later. The pharmacist handed him his prescription right away. It occurred to the pharmacy owner that it was absurd that a patient who the pharmacy team deliver to normally arrived in the pharmacy looking for his prescription.
At this moment he began to question the logic behind offering a medication delivery service. He also began questioning his commercial decision some years ago to offer the delivery service for free so that he could grow the volume of prescriptions going through his business.
He was influenced further in the coming months due to increasing uncertainty around NHS contractual remuneration. With the amount of money coming into the pharmacy reducing this free service was found to no longer be viable. The associated running costs were simply too high. In response to this pressure, the community pharmacy owner took the difficult decision to stop the delivery service.
Do you think patients should have the right to receive free deliveries of medication all of the time?
Why do you think community pharmacies have traditionally offered services like medication delivery services for free?
“Incentive for business.”
“To gain business.”
“To compete with others who offer the service for free. Fear of losing prescription volume.”
“To promote the business and enhance Rx turnover.”
“To support vulnerable patients.”
“Fear of loss of business.”
“In an attempt to acquire volume at any cost.”
“Increase market share.”
“To help those who are housebound or elderly.”
“Increase the dispensing business.”
“As a service to the housebound patient initially, but then extended to increase customer volume.”
“To take up Rx volume from their competitors. So basically greed. Not patient care at all.”
“Simply to grow the business – get the script numbers.”
“Profits made it worthwhile.”
“To gain extra business or to not to lose existing customers.”
“Because the larger companies started doing it.”
“A larger proportion of income was made by dispensing prescriptions. It made sense to offer free delivery as this ensured continued business but did not eat into profits too much. Also, fewer patients expected delivery compared to today.”
“Too little thought in working out the cost involved. No self-respecting professional should offer free services. Try asking you solicitor for anything free.”
“It’s always been part of the service they provide.”
“To help housebound patients, to grow prescription numbers and because we were originally paid to deliver oxygen so other deliveries could be piggy-backed onto that service.”
“To guarantee prescription items, to compete against competitors.”
“I personally think from my experience it was to attract more patients to the pharmacy in question, offering a service that may be the other pharmacy’s nearby didn’t.”
“To increase script volume.”
“For the good of the individual: business, not as a professional body.”
“Early days delivery service was only for housebound and elderly.”
“The large multiples started it to increase their business and we independents had to follow so we didn’t lose out.”
“Competitiveness and a saturated market.”
“To bring in business.”
“Because of remuneration based on volume. Unfortunately, every Rx counts and it’s a way to gain/keep, customers.”
“See your own prelude to the question…to build the business.”