By Simon Sansome
Like millions of people in the UK I reply on my pharmacy service to work effectively and reliably. There is a new service called Pharmacy2u.co.uk which has been advertised all over the TV and radio in recent months and is offering a delivery service to your door. It all takes place online, which sounds amazing and something that would make life easier for many people.
When I joined I didn’t realise what I was signing up for. My old pharmacy is attached to my GP surgery and they are always welcoming, friendly and know my disability. They know the importance of me getting my prescription, I’m not ashamed or embarrassed to tell anyone that I don’t have a functioning bladder and need to self catheterise 4-5 times a day to release the urine from my bladder. Things get serious if I run out of catheters as it could be very painful and the worst case I could be hospitalised and so having a reliable service is vital for me.
Signing up to Pharmacy2u was very straight forward, you fill a form in online and agree to the terms and conditions. What I later found out and didn’t realise was that I was changing pharmacy I do not beleive this was explained correctly, I honesty and maybe a bit naively believed that Pharmacy2u would be delivering my prescriptions on behalf of my existing pharmacy rather than taking over the whole thing. Being wheelchair dependent and getting to the pharmacy can be difficult so having them delivered is a saving grace for me.
When I signed up I put in my first order, it was straight forward, I was advised to order five days in advance before running out of catheters, which is something I normally do. Because of my situation I am excluded from paying for my prescriptions and have an exemption card. When I signed up for Pharmacy2u I presumed that the details would be passed to them, it was only four days after I placed my first order when I was expecting my first deliver I got an email from Pharmacy2u asking for evidence of my medical exemption. It was only after I provided this information that my life saving catheters could be released, as this point I was down to my last few catheters.
I asked if they had a backup service in case something went wrong, they didn’t have any back up service. With me now thinking that I might have to go to A+E to get catharised I called 111 NHS help line to ask for assistance. They advised me to call all the local pharmacies and hospitals to see if they had any catheters in stock. Luckily the following morning my catheters arrived by Royal Mail and so someone had clearly processed the prescription straight away. But this was the first time in four years since I lost my bladder that I was worried about what could happen.
Thinking that things could not get any worse now we had this issue sorted out, I stayed with them and a few days later placed another order with Pharmacy2u. I did not expect them to not process the order.
Yes, you heard me right, Pharmacy2u did not process the order, on the 22nd December because of the holidays approaching I ordered extra catheters, so I didn’t run out over the holidays. However, on the 22nd December the same day I placed my order Pharmacy2u left me a message to ask me if I had ordered this prescription in error. However, because I was changing network on my phone I didn’t receive the message until the new year. It should be noted that most of the dealing with Pharmacy2u had been done by email, so why they didn’t they email or do it the old-fashioned way of sending me a letter asking me to contact them I will never know. But my catheters didn’t arrive.
So, I ordered them again a few days later. Today the 2nd Jan I found out they don’t have any in stock. There was no communication to advise me of this, no messages, no emails to advise me of this to say I will need to make other arrangements.
For me my local pharmacy is essential as bread and milk it gives me the opportunity to live a normal life without it I would have a lot more serious issues and will never take it for granted again following my experience with pharmacy2u.
The bottom line is, Pharmacy2u did not explain and I did not fully understand what I was signing up for. More needs to be done to advertise the fact that you are leaving your local pharmacy for them to be your main supplier for your percriptions. They failed to communicate with me quickly enough to advise me they needed extra information before processing an order, they didn’t process an order which they believed had been ordered in error because they couldn’t get hold of me (which to me is just a dangerous practice), and they didn’t tell me for two weeks that they did not have the prescriptions in stock it was only established after I called them to ask where my prescription were.
Whilst I can see some benefits from people with disabilities finding Pharmacy2u useful if your situation is serious and can seriously affect your heath, I would recommend staying with your local pharmacy who knows your situation and knows you personally, the personal service for me makes all the difference and my local pharmacy have advised me they keep extra catherters in stock in case of an emergency.