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Pharmacies should be more like Amazon


Staff nurse, Jayne Parker, asks “Isn’t there a better way to handle repeat prescriptions?”

Last week I needed to collect my regular prescription, the same one I’ve had for the last 10 years and thanks to the NHS trying to improve on medicine wastage I now have to do this six times a year. The saga goes like this…

Once a year I see a consultant in London where I am weighed, measured and asked lots of questions.

He then writes a letter to my GP taking about a month to arrive where he states his findings and requests the GP to provide my prescriptions for me.

Then when I need the next prescription I go and see my GP where I’m weighed, measured and asked lots more questions.

At the end of this I’m given a script for two months’ worth of pills. I take this script to a pharmacy who won’t have the pills in stock because they’re an unusual strength and so I have to go back in a couple of days to collect them.

Each trip takes a ten-minute drive and a couple of pounds for the parking machine.

“In the same way I have online access to Amazon, I could have an ‘account’ with the NHS pharmacy where I could change my address or pay any costs or request an extra delivery”

For each of the subsequent prescriptions for the year I first have to drop in a request to the doctor, then a couple of days later take the script from the doctor to a pharmacy and of course it won’t be in stock so I’ll have to return again; and so it goes on.

Now, I have a secure email address which I’m told is secure enough to send confidential personal data and it’s available to anyone working in or with the NHS - like, say, an online pharmacy!

I know this is a secure email account because whenever I need to change the password I end-up locking myself out, then having to call IT where a bored support technician kindly fixes my stupidity, again.

The final part of the puzzle is to have prescription only items sent in the post. But - wait a minute - my optician already does this with a packet of prescription only contact lenses arriving every quarter with a thud onto the doormat.

And so here is my plan.

All we need to do is to join all these bits together. The consultant makes his diagnosis at my annual check-up. He then completes an electronic form, indicates how many repeats are required and, using the secure email, sends the script electronically to the online NHS pharmacy. The pharmacy can then see what medications will be required for the year, plans accordingly and dispatches my medication to arrive at the appointed time.

“If just a small percentage of prescriptions can be filled in this way it could save a lot of trips to doctor or pharmacy”

In the same way I have online access to Amazon, I could have an “account” with the NHS pharmacy where I could change my address or pay any costs or request an extra delivery if I was going away for a few weeks.

It’s a win for everyone concerned. I won’t need to take up time with my GP and he can just be notified electronically each time I receive any medication. The consultant can be sure what he specifies is what is dispensed.

The NHS can use “just-in-time” methodology to make sure my medication is available when needed and reduce costs. And, I wont need to make3 trips, paying for 3 lots of parking, and risk running out of pills because I’m on a run of long days and can’t make the 3 trips.

The plan won’t work for everyone, but if just a small percentage of prescriptions can be filled this way then it could save a lot of trips to doctor or pharmacy.   

Just a little bit of outside the (pill-)box thinking!


 Jayne Parker is a staff nurse working for the NHS


Readers' comments (4)

  • We have this -why dont you? Its called electronic prescribing!!

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  • Pharmacies should be more Like Amazon...

    Too right- I can never get the latest box set in my local Lloyds

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  • This already happens in my area. Anything my GP puts on repeat prescription, the local pharmacy (you can nominate one of about 12 & GP make a note of it) will order repeat prescription, collect on one of their 2x daily trips to GP practice, dispense and have ready for you when you need it. The medication I'm on isn't that common these days, but regular pharmacist, having sight of my scripts & knowing when next one due, can ensure that they have in stock. The only problem I have is when I see GP in person & she asks if I need a repeat prescription while I'm there - I never have a clue as it all happens 'as if by magic' :-) ! The practice has an annual prescription review policy, linked to birthday month, when, if GP has been seeing you regularly will just 'tick box' extend your repeat prescription; if they haven't seen you at the surgery you are invited for a review before another script issued so people's meds & health do get reviewed. If you don't want pharmacy to do everything for you, you can still request repeat prescriptions online, again nominating pharmacy for script to be delivered to, & then you only make one trip - the one to collect your meds.
    I agree the multiple trips is a pain for patients (?especially shift workers), a waste of both patient and doctor time (at time when GPs stretched), but it's not rocket science to address. From 1st comment, it would seem this is one of those 'postcode lottery' areas of healthcare, or one of those all too common failures to share good practice, avoiding energy time and money being spent on reinventing the wheel.

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  • Kirsty Armstrong | 20-Mar-2014 1:10 pm

    helpful comment! Who is 'we', you and who else? it would be more useful if you could share your information with readers so they know to which model you refer!

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