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Dispensing Innovation at Fownhope Medical Centre


Fownhope Medical Centre has recently installed a medication vending machine. Amanda Diamond, Dispensing Lead at the Surgery, explains why and how this came about ...

Fownhope For Uploading“Dr Richard Kippax, one of the GP Partners at the surgery, had known about these dispensing machines for a long time and had been hoping to install one at Fownhope. When COVID19 struck, he talked to the Fownhope and District Trust, who agreed that installing the machine would reduce the need for patients to have face-to-face contact with the dispensers, thereby minimising the risk of transmission of the disease. The Trust generously provided the surgery with the money needed to purchase the machine."

As far as they know, Fownhope Medical Centre is only the fourth GP surgery in the country to install a medication vending machine, although many community pharmacies have gone down this route.

Amanda continues: “Initially, the system does create more work for us as we have to input patients’ details into the database. But this only has to be done once.

“Some prescriptions, for example controlled drugs, bulky or refrigerated items, cannot be dispensed through the vending machines, but most can. This means that patients can pick up their medication at a time to suit them and don’t have to fit into the opening times we offer.

“We’re hoping that patients will opt-in in sufficient numbers to enable us to reduce the opening times of the dispensary in the New Year, which will release us to carry out other important work.”

Patients were informed about the new service via a letter given to them when they picked up their prescriptions. Although it’s early days – the system only went live from the beginning of October – so far, the response has been very positive, with patients of all ages signing up for the service.

“There are only really a couple of considerations for patients, and these aren’t major,” says Amanda. “Firstly, they need a mobile phone and decent signal as this is how they will be alerted to the fact that their prescription is ready and be given the PIN code they’ll need to collect it.

“Secondly, patients will need to take responsibility for reordering their medication. However, we’re helping them to do this in various ways, including providing a paper repeat prescription slip with their medication which they can pop into the post box sited next to the vending machine, or they can reorder via the internet or email.”

Some patients seem worried that this new machine will mean that dispensers will be out of a job, but Amanda is quick to reassure them. “It’s touching that patients worry about us, but of course the machine only offers a collection service – we still have to dispense the medication. We are always flat out and this has been especially the case during the pandemic. It’s not unusual for me to work a 12-hour day. The dispensing machine will help to alleviate these pressures, whilst providing a better and more convenient service for patients.”

As a rural practice, the surgery and its dispensary team have been under significant additional pressure during the pandemic. For example, many of their patients are elderly and shielding and so the number of home deliveries has increased, and staff absences have stretched resources to their limit.

The new dispensing machine is a timely and much welcome innovation, whose benefits will continue beyond the pressures of the current times.

Amanda and the team at Fownhope are happy to answer any questions about the machine. For further information, please email: fownhope.medicalcentre@nhs.net.