Pharmacists will be largely replaced by robots at the new packing facility set to be opened by Britain’s largest online pharmacy
But humans will still need to check drugs packed by robots—after the medicines arrive on conveyor belts, reports the UK’s Telegraph.
Pharmacy2U currently dispenses 500,000 items of medicine each month – while the average UK pharmacy dispenses around 7,000. Its current facility in Leeds is, however, capable of dispensing up to 1.2 million items a month.
Pharmacy2U plans to open a new, almost fully automated robotic picking facility in Leicester, which will be capable of dispensing up to six and a half million drug items a month.
The new facility will enable it to dispense a drug item over 0.2 seconds.
“It’s a bit Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” Mark Livingstone, chief executive of Pharmacy2U, told the Telegraph. “There are lots of wonderful things going on there.”
Currently Pharmacy2U has around 1% market share of the repeat scripts market in the UK, but it hopes to expand this to 10%, taking advantage of the growing interest among patients in online pharmacy.
“We offer two-day delivery and our focus is on repeat prescriptions,” Mr Livingstone told the Telegraph.
“Ninety per cent of our customers are NHS. We make our profit from the dispensing fee we get from the NHS, so margins are slim and it’s going to be really tough, which is why efficiency and scale is the only way to go.
“We are a bit like the Amazon of prescriptions,” said Mr Livingstone.
In May 2019 Phil Day, the superintendent pharmacist at Pharmacy2U, told Raconteur that the company is seeing “real benefits” with the advance of technology.
“There will always be a role for public-facing high street pharmacies, but they have to change to adapt to the changing needs of their patients,” he said, quoted in an article which discussed how technology could free up time for pharmacists.