Updated: Jan 7, 2021
West Elloe Pharmacy has broken new ground as the first UK pharmacy to operate three Pharmaself24 medicine collection points.
The installation of our new machine was a proud moment, and one that has allowed us to reflect on the journey we have gone through in 2020 to arrive at this point. After all, it’s less than a month since the first person in the UK was vaccinated against a deadly virus none of us had even really heard of last January, and we are now returning to lockdown.
From the point the pandemic first arrived in the UK, we made it our mission to get the most from the technology available to us – for the benefit of both our patients and our staff. As a result, over the past 12 months we have continued to grow significantly, and our new Pharmaself24 will go a long way to easing the workflow pressures and demands associated with a high-volume dispensing business.
Our growth is not typical. It’s clear life has been difficult for many pharmacies. Lockdowns, local restrictions and heightened anxiety over face-to-face interactions have kept patients away from GP surgeries and medical centres, and that has had a knock-on effect on prescription numbers and pharmacy profits. This pinch has been felt most keenly at locations with expensive rent and business rates.
For our part, we knew remote collection via our Pharmaself24 machines offered the benefit of social distancing as well as convenience, so we embarked on a focused promotional campaign via social media (in conjunction with Pharmacy Mentor) to highlight the service. There was a strong response among residents of all ages here in Spalding, with 1,400 sign-ups in the first three months alone.
Repeat customers quickly made it part of their day-to-day lives in the new normal, and once new patients had experienced the benefits of 24/7 collection and not having to queue, we found that it reset their understanding of how to engage with pharmacy. The vast majority have never looked back. In this sense, it’s a reflection of other changes in behaviour triggered by coronavirus, such as the accelerated rise of online shopping.
The growth in our script numbers continued into autumn and winter and, knowing there would be a delayed bump in demand from newly signed-up patients, we took action by placing the order for a third Pharmaself24. At the same time we decided to expand our consultation room.
These two developments are not mutually exclusive. As for so many other Pharmaself24 customers, they are part of our ongoing transformation; part of our investment in a future that combines efficient dispensing with valuable patient services.
There’s no doubt that journey has been speeded up by COVID-19. Right now, over 5,000 times a month, we give patients a collection experience that doesn’t involve queueing or close contact with others. What’s more, we are ensuring staff are protected while we still deliver the vital, high-value face-to-face interactions that patients will always need.
After a year of challenges, it is heartening to reflect on these achievements and look forward to what opportunities 2021 has to offer.