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Community pharmacy volunteer delivery service ‘doomed to fail’


Community pharmacy contractor Mike Hewitson has responded to the announcement of the essential and advanced delivery services in England on Good Friday evening last week. The services are to involve community pharmacy contractors engaging with volunteers to deliver medicines. 


“The pandemic community pharmacy delivery service is not worth the paper it’s written on.


“Essentially if you can find the one person in a thousand that probably qualifies for a funded delivery then you’re a better person than me.


“This is too little too late.


“This is a slap in the face to all the community pharmacy teams that have been working their socks off over the last four to six weeks.


“I’m fed up.


“I’m just fed up.


“This is just rubbish.


“The services urgently need a rethink. The plan to use volunteers in this way urgently needs to be reviewed. I think in its current form it is doomed to failure. The problems with volunteers have been widely discussed now. It’s not just me that feels like this.


“Essentially the only time we are going to be able to deliver to a patient is:


  1. If they qualify as shielded, which is only a tiny minority of people who are a) stuck at home at the moment and b) that want delivery.
  2. They have to be unable to get a friend, relative or a neighbour to collect their prescription for them and in the event that they can’t.
  3. They have to be a position that there is no volunteer available. That is not just the NHS national scheme but also local schemes and community schemes.


“The service is just a joke and this is going to create a massive additional workload because the obligation is on us.


“So, we have to go and find the volunteers.


“That means that you’ve either go to log on to one of the volunteer apps to source a volunteer and if you’re in a rural area like ours there is absolutely no guarantee you are going to find somebody when you want them.


“Then you have to manage those logistics so you’re going to have to make additional phone calls. You’re going to have to then make an assessment when the patient comes in.


“This is the real cherry on the cake which I can’t believe.


“The pharmacist has to make a decision as to whether they feel that person is an appropriate person to do delivering medicines.


“It’s not clear what happens if we don’t think they are so what do we have to do?


“Find another volunteer?


“Deliver ourselves at that point?


“It doesn’t specify. This is just nonsense. This is a complete waste of everyone’s time and effort. I can’t believe we’ve waited a month for this.


“From where I’m sat this looks like a bad deal. Personally, I think I’d rather the powers had be had left it to be honest because it just leaves us in a whole worse situation that we were in before.


“Now we’ve got an obligation to deliver to people, though in my case as a rural contractor we’ve got some people that are seven or eight miles away and your taking about a 14-mile round trip potentially to deliver one urgent antibiotic to somebody.


“Well you know you can forget this service being anything other than a massive loss to contractors.


“Now I obviously understand that these are difficult times, I understand that there are people in a lot worse positions than us but likewise, I don’t want to have to fund everything from the patients that don’t qualify for the NHS funded delivery through to the ones that do.


“It’s just unbelievable.


“So where do we go from here?


“I don’t know.


“The obligation is now in our terms of service so we’ve been stitched up like a kipper on that one. I honestly feel like telling them to go shove it. You know we’re all reasonable people, we all put our patients first I know that.


“If anyone has an answer to this impossible question please let me know because I honestly don’t understand how I’m going to make this work.


“And of course, it was dropped on us at 7:30 pm on Good Friday. Absolute disgrace.


“We’ve been left in an impossible spot where we’re being the last line of defence and we’re the ones that are going to end up picking the deliveries no one else wants to do.


“And we’re going to end up doing that at a massive loss.


“I’m sorry that this service continues to be a shambles.


“I can’t really say any more than that.”


Mike Hewitson is an independent pharmacy contractor. He is also a Councillor for Stoke & Norton Sub Hamdon, South Somerset District Council. His views are his own. 


We previously spoke to solicitor Andrea James on the PIPcast about this very topic. You can access that conversation here.


To read more about the new essential and advanced community pharmacy delivery services click here.




1 thought on “Community pharmacy volunteer delivery service ‘doomed to fail’”

  1. Mike, I can feel your anger. I agree entirely. At a time when we need simple communication and systems, the bureaucrats dump reams of rules on us. They do not understand and they do not care.

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