The government’s response to its consultation on allowing hub and spoke dispensing across legal entities is due ‘shortly’, the pharmacy minister has told a parliamentary inquiry today.

But she added that she has not yet seen the collated analysis of consultation responses.

The consultation, launched in March 2022, proposed to allow community pharmacies to use hub and spoke dispensing across separate businesses.

In December 2023, Dame Andrea Leadsom said that the government’s response to its consultation was currently being finalised and would be published ‘as soon as possible’.

The response has still not been published, but Dame Andrea told the Health and Social Care Select Committee (HSCC)’s pharmacy inquiry today: 'I fully expect to publish the government's response to that consultation shortly.'

But she added that she had 'not seen the collated response to the consultation' yet.

Speaking to the HSCC, Dame Andrea said that the proposed changes were intended ‘to make the dispensing process more efficient, and thereby free up pharmacist time’.

She added that she did not think the proposed changes would be ‘a revolution’ for pharmacies’ efficiency, but rather ‘would be an incremental improvement in the process that enables that efficiency’.

While she said she had not seen the 'collated analysis' of the consultation responses, Dame Andrea said that 'in principle' there 'would be some advantages' afforded by the opportunity to use hub and spoke dispensing across legal entities.

She told the committee that she had heard from pharmacy contractors who 'have a chain of pharmacies [that are] not all within the same legal entity' and therefore 'can't use the hub and spoke model which they find to have useful economies of scale'.

In its long-term workforce plan published in June last year, NHS England (NHSE) estimated that the use of hub and spoke dispensing would increase by 2% a year, freeing up capacity within community pharmacy to deliver more clinical services.

But Community Pharmacy England (CPE) said that as well as legislative change, ‘significant investment’ would also be needed to make hub and spoke dispensing ‘financially viable’ for the whole sector.

And HSCC chair and former pharmacy minister Steve Brine has said he ‘doubts very much’ that changes to hub and spoke legislation will be the answer to problems faced by independent community pharmacies.