Distance Selling Pharmacies: Everything You Need To Know
Whether we like it or not, the world is becoming more digital and the healthcare sector is no exception. More people are using the internet to learn about certain health issues with many turning to Distance Selling Pharmacies (DSP), or Online Pharmacies to buy prescription medication. It is one of the fastest-growing trends but what exactly are Distance Selling Pharmacies? How do they work and are they safe? We also look at what pharmacists do and some of their main duties and responsibilities.
What Does A Pharmacist Do?
Pharmacists or dispensing chemists are medical professionals who specialise in the safe and effective administration of medicines. They can dispense prescription medicines and offer advice on over-the-counter remedies for minor ailments or conditions. Their job role and responsibilities include the following:
- Educate patients about adverse effects and drug interactions
- Offer vital services such as smoking cessation, blood pressure monitoring, and cholesterol management
- Ensure the quality and lawfulness of medicines supplied to patients
- Make sure the prescribed medication is suitable for the patient
- Provide advice on how to take the medicine, and potential reactions and answer any questions a patient may have
- Supervise the entire supply chain of the medicine while ensuring the pharmacy premises and systems are fit for purpose
- Supervise the production, preparation and quality of medicines before they are supplied to patients from manufacturers
- Advise other healthcare professionals about safe and effective medicines supply and use
What Are Distance Selling Pharmacies?
According to the GPhC, a Distance Selling Pharmacy is “a type of pharmacy that works exclusively at a distance from patients. DSPs include mail order and internet pharmacies that remotely manage patients’ medicine logistics and distribution.” A Distance Selling Pharmacy includes mail order and online pharmacies that manage a patient’s medicine logistics and distribution remotely.
The Medicines Ethics and Practice also defines a Distance Selling Pharmacy as a pharmacy service where patients don’t physically present a prescription. Instead, pharmacy staff receive the prescription by post or electronically, such as via EPS (electronic prescription service).
Online Pharmacies provide a delivery service from the registered pharmacy to patients at home, in a care home or in a nursing home. It can also be a ‘hub and spoke’ pharmacy service. This refers to a pharmacy that prepares, assembles, dispenses and labels medicine for individual patients based on prescriptions at a central ‘hub’ registered pharmacy.
Is It Safe To Use Distance Selling Pharmacies?
It is safe to use Distance Selling Pharmacies, especially in the UK since they are heavily regulated. As of 2012, potential Distance Selling Pharmacy applicants had to show that they had adequate procedures in place. These would help guarantee that all essential services were delivered safely and effectively to patients throughout England without face-to-face contact.
From the 1st of April 2022, anyone operating a distance selling pharmacy must have a website for public use, with the purpose of accessing pharmaceutical services from the premises. It must have an interactive page with clear branding and access to materials that promote a healthy lifestyle by addressing certain health issues.
Remember, becoming an Online Pharmacy takes time and effort while adhering to a long list of regulations. Distance Selling Pharmacies must offer reputable medicines with supported medicinal benefits and acquire valid prescriptions before patients can order and receive their medication.
Where Can I Find A Safe Online Pharmacy?
All legal online healthcare services, including Distance Selling Pharmacies in the UK, should indicate on their website that they are regulated in the UK. You can typically find this information on the company’s homepage, the About us page, or under the frequently asked questions (FAQs) section.
Also, the healthcare professional providing the advice or treatment should be able to provide you with their professional registration including their name and registration number. You can ask them for this information personally or find it by visiting the website of their professional regulator. This will indicate whether the healthcare professional is on the register and there is an option to raise a concern about the individual or a specific online pharmacy.
Regulatory Bodies For Healthcare Professionals In The UK
The following organisations regulate healthcare professionals in the UK:
- General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) registers and regulates pharmacy professionals and registered pharmacies (including online pharmacies) in Great Britain
- Pharmaceutical Society Northern Ireland (PSNI) regulates pharmacists and pharmacy owners in Northern Ireland
- General Dental Council (GDC) registers and regulates dental professionals in the UK
- General Medical Council (GMC) registers and regulates doctors in the UK
- General Optical Council (GOC) registers and regulates optometrists and dispensing opticians in the UK
- Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) registers and regulates health, social work and psychological professionals in the UK
- Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) registers and regulates nurses, midwives and nursing associates in the UK
New GPhC Guidance For Online and Distance Selling Pharmacies
To provide additional support and safety when ordering medicines from online pharmacies, the GPhC has issued new guidance, effective immediately. It states that pharmacies operating online or providing services at a distance must carry out identity checks on patients before prescribing a medicine. The National Pharmacy Association (NPA) was one of several pharmacy bodies that requested more appropriate identity checks and other controls with a focus on two key areas:
- Making sure medicines are clinically appropriate for patients
- Further safeguards for certain categories of prescription-only medicines
Distance Selling Pharmacies must provide all the drugs and medicines from any high street or ‘bricks and mortar’ pharmacy when a patient provides a prescription or if pharmacy staff receive an electronic prescription. An online pharmacy may not refuse to provide certain drugs or medicines and must dispense all NHS prescriptions without pre-selecting particular patient groups.
Chippenham Pharmacy and Health Clinic
In accordance with all the necessary regulations and conditions, Chippenham Pharmacy and Health Clinic is a Distance Selling Pharmacy offering safe online purchasing and delivery of medicines. We also have the premises, equipment and highly trained staff to provide patients with the best possible in-pharmacy services. Our online pharmacy has robust processes in place to perform identity checks on anyone obtaining medicines.
As with all legitimate Distance Selling Pharmacies, the Chippenham Pharmacy and Health Clinic team has the knowledge and experience to identify inappropriate requests for medicines. This includes multiple orders to the same address or orders using the same payment details. We don’t allow patients to choose a prescription-only medicine and the quantity before they have had a consultation with a prescriber. We also have further safeguards in place for certain prescription-only medicines, including:
- antimicrobials (antibiotics)
- opiates, sedatives, laxatives, pregabalin and gabapentin (pain relief).
- medicines for diabetes, asthma, epilepsy and mental health conditions that require ongoing monitoring or management
Services At Chippenham Pharmacy and Health Clinic
When visiting the Chippenham Pharmacy and Health Clinic, you can expect that your personal and medical information will be kept private and protected at all times. To ensure exceptional care, we’ve created an environment where patients can feel more comfortable asking our pharmacists any questions they may have using one of our three purpose-built consultation rooms.
You are in good hands as all of the Chippenham Pharmacy and Health Clinic staff can provide you with the information you need regarding your medication. Other services we offer include blood pressure checks, travel clinics, flu vaccinations and ear micro-suction among many others.