Medicx Pharmacy: View from a Polyclinic Pharmacy

Posted on July 29, 2009. Filed under: News stories, Polyclinics |

Chemist + Druggist | By Jennifer Richardson | 29 July 2009

Pharmacists continue to eye polyclinics with suspicion, but one company thinks it has found a solution. Jennifer Richardson looks inside a healthcare pharmacy.

Lord Darzi may have just stepped down as health minister, but arguably his best known and most controversial legacy to the national health service looks set to run and run.


Polyclinics may have dropped out of the limelight of late but, just one year after Ara Darzi’s NHS Next Stage Review suggested every PCT should have at least one primary care healthcentre, the ball is well and truly rolling. Just last month, new pharmacy minister Mike O’Brien opened the 50th healthcentre in England – if only pharmacy services could be rolled out so quickly.


Pharmacy’s reaction to the proposed polyclinics has been cautious, but there have been few overtly positive endorsements of the plans. Some representatives have stuck their heads above the parapet to denounce them, warning that putting pharmacies into the healthcentres could have a detrimental impact on existing pharmacy networks. Others have tentatively said that polyclinics could be good for the profession, if the plans are carefully thought out in consultation with local contractors. image_gallery (4)


Locally, it hardly seems surprising if contractors’ views are more akin to the former. It isn’t exactly good news if your nearest GP surgery ups sticks and moves into a healthcentre on the other side of town, and another company gets the contract for the in-house pharmacy. But one primary care centre developer believes it has found a kind of happy halfway house. At Lytham Primary Care Centre, which opened six weeks ago in Lancashire, the pharmacy is a joint venture between local contractor Paul Minton and MedicX Pharmacy, a new company dedicated to developing pharmacies in polyclinics.


The Lytham pharmacy is MedicX’s first in a healthcentre, with one opening next week in Rotherham and another in September in Ossett, Wakefield; the company aims to cover all areas of England and Wales within the next four years, growing by four units a year. And MedicX Pharmacy director Steve Jeffers believes the joint venture model could be the way to help them achieve this. image_gallery (3)


Pharmacy also benefits, Mr Jeffers adds, from the local knowledge and custom that the independent partner brings with them to the healthcentre pharmacy.


Of course, there are other contractors in the town who were also part of the failed consortium, but Mr Jeffers says MedicX Pharmacy’s relationship with them is “not bad”. Mr Minton adds: “We have tried not to upset anyone and hope to work alongside local pharmacies as best we can.”


Besides, Mr Jeffers, who is a former independent contractor, believes that pharmacy has to move with the times, with healthcentres providing the modern premises ideal for showcasing pharmacists’ expanding clinical role. “If pharmacy wants to really embrace the fact that it’s a healthcare profession – which I strongly believe it is – then it has to have the right environment to promote that.”


The contractors’ view


Would you give up your cosy, familiar high street premises to go to work in a polyclinic? Paul Minton has, leaving behind the pharmacy he’d run as an independent contractor for over 20 years to enter a joint venture with MedicX Pharmacy in Lytham Primary Care Centre, Lancashire. Why? Well, no-one would believe that simple economics didn’t form at least part of the equation, with his local GP surgeries already earmarked to move further from his pharmacy into the centre.


But it was, or at least has become, about more than that, Mr Minton says – a chance for him to modernise his practice that he doesn’t feel he would have had otherwise. “It’s an opportunity for someone like myself, who’s been an independent for such a long time, to have an input into what we’re doing today as opposed to yesterday.” image_gallery (2)


Pharmacy is changing, Mr Minton believes, and he’s grateful to have been given the opportunity to move along with that. For example, he enjoys the additional support he now has to develop ideas for new services. He does miss the ‘community spirit’ of being on the high street – but says part of the reason the joint venture has worked so well for himself, MedicX Pharmacy and their patients is that he brought “a lot of local goodwill” from his old pharmacy into the new healthcentre. Mr Minton has retained most of his regular patients, from whom the reaction to his relocation has been, he adds, “very favourable”.


Mr Minton had always had good relationships with the two local GP practices that now reside with him in the healthcentre. But co-location has escalated interprofessional working to another level, he says – including with practice and district nurses. “We seem to be approached by more health professionals for advice now – it works very well,” Mr Minton says.


“We have drifted away from the commercial side of pharmacy to be more healthcare orientated – which is obviously what these healthcentres are about.”


The polyclinic experience


Imagine being given free reign to design a new pharmacy. Completely free: no nooks and crannies to take into account, and space, if not no object, then certainly pretty unrestricted. Where would you start? For MedicX Pharmacy it’s with the dispensary, which at Lytham Primary Care Centre is certainly large by most standards. Everything else is designed around that. This approach, says MedicX Pharmacy director Steve Jeffers, means the dispensary’s layout supports smooth workflows. For example, there are two computer systems, one for acute dispensing and one for repeats; laptops link the three consultation rooms to the networks.


For patients, the pharmacy is based on a hotel rather than a shop, Mr Jeffers says.‘Sign-in’ stations positioned by the wide entrance offer pens for patients to fill in prescription forms, after which patients are greeted by a large clear counter “more akin to a reception desk”, according to Mr Jeffers, who’s sure it is “one of the poshest reception desks you’ll ever see in a pharmacy”. image_gallery (1)


Throughout the pharmacy there are clean lines and modern finishes in dark wood, brushed steel, dark red and grey paintwork, and stone-effect flooring. All aspects of the pharmacy are boldly signposted: pharmacy, pick-up, seating.


The waiting area is designed for health promotion, with a bespoke leaflet display system, an electronic health point with printer and a large flatscreen television displaying health programme The Life Channel. The positioning of the TV serves to drown out conversation at the semi-private prescription collection point behind. In an example of attention to detail and a determination to cater for local needs, the waiting area features fewer chairs than might be expected for the space – because, as a retirement town, Lytham has a high proportion of wheelchair users.


The retail space is deliberately small, almost non-existent. “We’re not a retailer; we’re a service provider,” says Mr Jeffers.


image_galleryMedicX Pharmacy is determined to maintain this community relationship, recently using a charity midnight walk in Lytham as an opportunity to connect with potential customers by distributing information about services in goody bags of blister plasters. And it seems to have worked so far, with the pharmacy seeing over 1,500 patients in its first full week. “We have got a lot of positive feedback from the patients,” Mr Jeffers reports.


 “This is a model that we think has a lot of attraction both for PCTs – because it’s good PR – but also for independents, where they feel threatened by a big primary care centre opening,” he says. (A local consortium of contractors, including Mr Minton, previously failed to secure a contract for the centre.) And MedicX 


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