The Pharmacy Group is set to become the first community pharmacy chain in the UK to use a hub and spoke service delivered by provider HubRx, following its acquisition by the Leeds-based ‘centralised automated pharmacy’.

Daniel Lee, HubRx chief executive, said the purchase of the 34-strong chain could ‘create a blueprint’ for other independent pharmacies to follow.

At present, the law only allows hub and spoke dispensing services to be carried out by pharmacies owned by the same legal entity.

Following the passing of the Medicines and Medical Devices Bill 2021, which enables the government to change the law on dispensing following the UK’s exit from the EU, secondary legislation has been proposed for a full rollout of hub and spoke services across community pharmacy.

A consultation and impact assessment have been carried out, but the secondary legislation has yet to be presented.

‘The delay to secondary legislation to allow independent community pharmacies to access hub and spoke dispensing has been very frustrating,’ said Mr Lee. ‘However, those operating as a single legal entity, such as The Pharmacy Group following its acquisition, are able to use it before the legislation is passed.’

The Pharmacy Group, based in Yorkshire, was founded in 1984 by the Lestner family and employs more than 300 people.

As part of the deal, the Lestner family will retain a minority shareholding and Jason Lestner will join the board and take the role of chief operating officer.

Mr Lestner said the deal marks ‘an exciting new chapter’ for The Pharmacy Group.

‘Community pharmacy can’t stand still, it needs to evolve to meet the needs of patients, but to also offer those working within it the opportunity to grow professionally and feel job satisfaction,’ he added.

If secondary legislation is passed, HubRx says the company aims to work with more than 200 independent community pharmacies through its 40,000 square foot automated facility, which the company suggests is capable of dispensing up to 12 million healthcare items per year.

‘In the last six years alone around 650 pharmacies have vanished from our high streets and the industry needs to do more than simply survive on dispensing income,’ Mr Lee said.

‘With our automated assembly service freeing up the capacity, I strongly believe we have an opportunity to rapidly move into clinical services and prove our model,’ he added.