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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)

  • To err is human but it takes computer to foul up things completely!
    If we were paid for each transaction this would not be a problem.
    We need HRG for primary care.

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  • If all GP's were allowed to dispense this iniquity would not arise, and availability of medication would be local.
    What we do need to dispense with quite obviously are the money grubbing and inept pharmacy system.
    CQC taken note and start closing down.

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  • Is there no medical or normal political will to remove the pharmaceutical parasite of community pharmacy from the NHS.
    Doctors should be given at least the same rights as this carbuncle on the NHS. I am sure they are equally capable of selling toothbrushes and nappies to the populace and any inadequate cough or cold medication.
    Could I also suggest that any member of NICE who has a link to the pharmaceutical industry be removed forthwith as they cannot provide impartial guidance.

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  • GP Partners @12.51 and @1.05

    We constantly hear about how overworked GPs are, but now you want to take on another professions workload as well as your own.
    Or so you say, but its all about getting your hands on more money really isn't it?

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  • I love trolls. They spice things up. More please :)

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  • Having been FORCED to dispense by contract for a number of years because no pharmacist would come into the area, and effectively paid a flat rate salary, therefore no extra expense one could not help but notice a profit to the practice was made and went back to the health board/PCT.
    QED pharmacy is a drain on NHS resource.
    Larger practices use NVQ level dispensers so no extra workload as GP's still provide the prescriptions.

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  • Pharmacy2U should not be seen or classed as being representative of the wider pharmacy community. Local pharmacies have had their business eroded by this company and are now having to pick up the pieces of their ineptitude.
    Unlike yourselves pharmacies are not 'lucky' enough to be inspected by CQC. The GPHC and NHS England, for what that may be worth, have investigated this business and raised several issues requiring urgent attention.

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  • Many GP's encouraged patients to move to this online pharmacy. It is partly owned by EMIS if I am correct.

    Community Pharmacy is actually very cost effective to the NHS as many GP's have found out when they have tried to dabble in the market, only to realise that the BMW's are leased and not owned!

    If every surgery dispensed then I'd be amazed if patients didn't go longer than two weeks without medication in some cases. Having total control of a situation does not favour the service user whatsoever and only breeds complacency in the service provider.

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  • Hello all, I'm using my name rather than gutless anonymity. So "anonymous GPs" basically you are using Pharmacy2Us failure as an excuse to kick pharmacists in general. Presumably therefore we should regard all GPs as being Shipmans should we? Not unreasonable to base prejudicial views of a profession on one failing and a few anecdotes is it? I'm only applying your logic after all.
    Happy trolling

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  • No it is being used I feel, to open a discussion on how and from whom medication may be provided from.
    1) the laws are different for dispensing doctors and pharmacies..why?
    2) with the development of the super practices, I believe that given a level playing field, to include retail. At least one non dom Greek tycoon may get a shock.
    3) generality on some occasions can be difficult to avoid, so no pharmacist may be a murderer, given that they represent a cross section of the population there have to be.
    4) how to keep,the trolls happy

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