People often use the terms "private pharmacy", "NHS pharmacy" and "distance selling pharmacy". Some people contact us to say that their pharmacy will be online so they "don't need physical premises", which is wrong. Before starting out on the path of opening any of these it is important to make sure that you know what you really mean.
All pharmacies in England are regulated by the General Pharmaceutical Council ("GPhC"). By registering your premises with the GPhC and filling out the registration of new premises forms and passing your GPhC inspection you have a pharmacy that most people would refer to as a "private pharmacy" even though there is nothing particularly private about it. That private pharmacy can have normal retail style premises or could operate purely online and be a distance selling pharmacy.
This section of our website is for those people who do not wish to provide NHS services from their pharmacy. If you want to open an NHS distance selling pharmacy then click here.
Whilst the NHS remains "free at the point of contact", cuts in funding and the inability to obtain appointments and treatments that fit in with modern living is leading to a rise in private prescribing and pharmacy services.
We have acted for a number of online private prescribing and pharmacy service providers and it is clear that this is a growth area in the healthcare sector. Typically we are instructed by companies that are new to the UK healthcare market and have seen a gap in personalised healthcare where patients are willing to pay for access to prescribing and treatment that they would be unable to access via traditional NHS routes. Our clients have included online dermatology providers, pharmacies specialising in dispensing cannabis and associated prodcuts, men's health (typically erectile dysfunction and hair loss treatment), private GP services (with associated pharmacy) and hormone replacement providers. Some of these providers manufacture their own medicines to specific formulations. If you have seen an advert for a new private online prescribing service with a pharmacy then there is a good chance we have been involved at some point!
We come across a range of shared issues for these new entrants which typically involve considering;
- Is online prescribing suitable in this case? [our first question, but often overlooked]
- Who should prescribe?
- Who will regulate the prescribing? This differs depending on the qualifications of the prescriber.
- GP prescribing versus independent prescribers
- Can prescribing be advertised?
- What will the relationship between the prescriber and pharmacy be?
- Will the associated pharmacy have a website?
- Can the pharmacy provide unlicensed / compounded medicines / "specials"?
- What registration is required for online pharmacy websites?
- What involvement will the MHRA have?
- What Standard Operating Procedures ("SOPs") do I need?
- Who will write the SOPs?
- Will my current insurance cover this new venture?
Whilst these are common themes, every client is different and we take the time to understand what your needs really are.
Assuming projects progress the client will inevitably end up making an application to the GPhC to register the pharmacy premises. This is another area where we are increasingly being asked to advise, as the GPhC is deliberately vague about what they expect to see in an application or during a physical inspection. Some companies will have invested hundreds of thousands of pounds by the time they get to filling in the GPhC application form and a failed inspection can put plans back by many months.
One thing that any new entrant should be very cautious about saying is something that we hear all too often and is, "I don't need any advice on that because [xyz website] is doing it that way so I know it is legal". But that is like saying "Stealing cars must be ok because somebody down the road got their car stolen".
If you want to discuss your plans then please get in touch.
Partner | Rushport Advisory LLP
Some feedback from our clients:
"Rushport set up an entire private pharmacy for us. They project managed and delivered every aspect needed and were an absolute pleasure to work with. I have been involved in many projects, both public and private, over many years and I can honestly say I have never found anyone who delivers as effectively."
"Rushport helped us with the opening of our new pharmacy within our surgery. This was a whole new area of business for us and a steep learning curve. They provided us with knowledge and advice in planning and strategy, including detailed project planning to actually get us open on time, IT solutions, management and operational aspects, marketing and recommendations to maximise profits. He provided a valuable source of business and finance expertise that we continue to tap into since we have opened as we come across new issues. We couldn't have got everything done within our timeframe, and so efficiently, without this help."
"Rushport have been invaluable in helping us set up our pharmacy from scratch. With a deep knowledge of MHRA wholesale and GPhC standards they have guided us through the regulatory framework to obtain a registered pharmacy and Wholesale Dealers Authorisation. We feel confident that we are compliant in all aspects of running the pharmacy and can get on with the core business of making it flourish and grow. The team are thorough, patient and professional and take the time to understand your particular business model. They can advise on everything from online pharmacy requirements, shopfitting and quality management systems to recruitment and marketing. I would advise anyone thinking of establishing a pharmacy to let Rushport help them get it right from the start."