Pharmacies operating in a group using a hub and spoke model are ‘the future’ for independents, according to former Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) president Ash Soni.

In the new five-year community pharmacy contract, announced last month, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) committed to legislative reforms that will ‘allow all pharmacies to benefit from more efficient hub and spoke dispensing’.

The law currently only allows pharmacies in the same retail business to use the centralised dispensing model, excluding independent pharmacies.

Pharmacy owner Mr Soni told The Pharmacist he wants to form a co-operative with other local pharmacies in his area and believes contractors shouldn’t be afraid that they will lose out financially.

He said: ‘If we can get co-operatives of eight to ten local community pharmacies all working together with a single dispensing hub operating on their behalf, they still get all the income.

‘We own the hub and then that hub works for us, rather than being owned by a wholesaler or a multiple. That's part of our future – let’s see if we can get there.’


Better care


As well as demonstrating how pharmacy can work better at scale, forming co-operatives with centralised dispensing hubs will free up pharmacists to deliver better care, Mr Soni said.

The sector must keep moving towards a service-based model with supply alongside it to make the best of community pharmacy and this is ‘quite likely’ to involve some form of the hub and spoke model, he said.

He added: ‘We have to recognize that somehow or another, the expectation is going to be efficiency of the supply mechanism. It's about how we build that into the care mechanism rather than the other way around.’

Despite fears that practice-based pharmacy will overtake the community sector, Mr Soni believes that community pharmacies are crucial to ensuring patients are supported to take their medicines correctly.

He said: ‘The patients that are going to the GP practice are the tip of the iceberg. They will go there once a year. It's about where and how we utilize the accessibility that community pharmacy offers.’