DHSC Review recommends action to curb prescription direction by distance selling pharmacies

19 Apr 2018

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) has published a report which identifies “strong evidence of prescription direction” to some distance selling pharmacies, following representations made by the NPA and other pharmacy leadership bodies.

A DHSC review of the National Health Service (Pharmaceutical and Local Pharmaceutical Services) Regulations 2013 finds that the Regulations have “largely achieved the original policy objectives which remain relevant and appropriate for the regulation of NHS pharmaceutical services in England.”  It also identifies “a number of unintended consequences….particularly in relation to distance selling premises (also known as distance selling pharmacies or DSPs)”.

The review is likely to lead to a formal consultation on amendments to the 2013 Regulations to address the problem.  Specifically, it recommends:

  • require DSPs to declare any vested or significant interests – including if any of the business owners or partners, are themselves, or have family members who are prescribers of NHS prescriptions dispensed by the DSP
  • require DSP contractors to maintain functional websites which detail how their services can be accessed nationally and their arrangements for the disposal of patient returned waste medicines
  • NHS England develop a complaints process to allow suspected breeches to be reported investigated
  • DHSC consider how the development and roll out of the electronic prescription service and patient nomination processes could help mitigate prescription direction.

The National Pharmacy Association has long argued for tighter regulations and enforcement to curb prescription direction and we regard this review as a significant moment. The first step to addressing a problem is to recognise that a problem exists – we are pleased that the government is finally waking up to the reality that the system is being abused.  The review itself will not solve the nationwide problems overnight, so NPA members are reminded that in the meantime they have access to our Level Playing Field toolkit, which can help mitigate specific incidents.

The post implementation review also makes recommendations in relation to minor relocations, dispensing doctors and terms of service for 100 hour pharmacies.

Post Implementation Review