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GPs go forth

GPs told to reissue prescriptions following online pharmacy failure

GPs have been told to re-issue prescriptions to patients left without their medicines due to a major distribution failure at one of the UK’s largest online pharmacies.

Pharmacy2U has said the problem with its distribution of medicines, which has caused an outcry on social media from affected patients over the Christmas holiday period, will last into next week.

NHS England said the first course of action for affected patients should be to contact Pharmacy2U and, as a second resort, request an emergency supply from an alternative pharmacy. However it said failing this, they could ask their GP to re-issue their prescription.

In a letter sent on 23 December, NHS England head of primary care commissioning Dr David Geddes advised GPs, pharmacy staff and NHS 111 call handlers contacted patients to use the EPS tracker to inform patients of their options.

He added: ’If for any reason P2U cannot be contacted the patient could request an emergency supply from any pharmacy. Failing this the patient can consult their GP with regard to the possibility of securing a replacement prescription.’

Pharmacy2U first announced delays with prescription orders in late December, owing to ‘unforeseen, operational difficulties due to our recent move to our new premises’. It said this meant it would ’not be able to deliver any prescriptions requested from 21 December until the week commencing Monday 11 January 2016’.

The company is currently advising patients needing to put in new medicine orders that they will have to wait until Friday to do so.

NHS England said it is working with Pharmacy2U to get in contact with patients via email and telephone, with those unable to wait until 11 January or who cannot be contacted to ‘have their prescriptoin returned to the NHS spine’.

The NHS England letter explained to GPs that ‘patients with an outstanding order are being contacted by email and telephone, those who are unable to wait until January 11th or who cannot be contacted will have their prescription returned to the NHS spine’.

GP leaders told Pulse it was ‘difficult to tell’ as yet what impact the issue has had on GP practices and out-of-hours providers so far.

However Dr Andrew Mimnagh, a GP in Sefton, questioned why GP practices were expected to ‘bail pharmacies out’.

He said: ‘Why is the GP the go-to for pharmacy provider issues – it’s that mentality that if something goes wrong in the NHS the GP sorts it.’

Managing director of Pharmacy2U Daniel Lee said: ‘We apologise that unforeseen difficulties in transferring our prescription dispensing service to our new automated facility led to unexpected delays for some orders.

‘These exceptional circumstances caused our service to fall below its usual high standard and we are extremely sorry for the inconvenience it has caused. The operational issues are now being resolved and our experienced dispensary team is processing delayed orders as quickly as possible.’

The issue has come as GPs are already grappling with switching tens of thousands of patients to an alternative insulin after major shortages with certain products were announced just before Christmas. Meanwhile, chronic ongoing medication supply problems are taking up to an hour a day to sort out, GP leaders have warned.


Readers' comments (18)

  • Interesting comments but I note that you still prefer anonymity. Why??

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  • PS if you want a level playing field perhaps GPs should not expect an NHS
    Pension. After all pharmacists are also contractors to the NHS but somehow they are Not entitled to be members of the NHS pension scheme. Be careful of what you wish for as you might just get it

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  • Brought up in the era when dissention within the NHS guaranteed one a one way ticket to Siberia.
    Despite the encouragement of whistleblowers, the strong impression I have is that they are victimised and sidelined at all levels, currently.
    The administrators who get paid hundreds of thousands to keep the lid on things are not going to allow anything else, are they?
    We only hear of the tip of the iceberg in the media.
    Waste and corruption within the NHS would appear to be both rife and outrageous.
    Although true anonymity can not be guaranteed, I would prefer to pay some lip service to this.

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  • The last thing GP's want is a level playing field.

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  • Pharmacy2U have developed 'partnerships' with GP practices.

    I wonder what that might mean?

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  • @Anonymous pharmacist 4:00 - Please check your hyperlinks before posting, rather than clogging up the list. And why use Amazon S3?

    @GP 8:04 - very good questions! I have a copy of the proceedings of the pharmaceutical conference, from the late 1800's - and (not surprisingly) the debate then was pretty much the same as it is now! Nothing changes - or will ever! But anyone who has worked in both aspects will fully recognise the trolls here.

    Sad to say that there is a general government push for 'super practices' of any kind, and P2U is one of several - all be it (IMHO) somewhat suspect. Yes, they have direct partnerships with GPs and Emis (with appropriate financial 'incentives' as many others do). They have also just been fined £130,000 for selling information about customers to marketing companies, according to BBC news. But I know of GP practices doing equally dodgy things...

    Incidentally, has there ever been a pharmacist serial murderer in the UK? (genuine query - I've never hear of one). Or do they just get done for selling illicit substances to others?

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  • Apologies Paul. Amazon S3 is what Companies House use. The link was faulty but contains a clear statement from P2U about their intentions and links with GP practices.

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