Gareth Rowe, has been a pharmacist for 30 years and has two pharmacies within a mile of each other, located in the sleepy rural Ogmore Valley, South Wales.

The family run businesses in Nantymoel and Ogmore Vale are the only pharmacies within a 7 mile radius and therefore the only pharmacies serving a population of just under 6,000.

The village of Nantymoel may be sleepy but Gareth’s Pharmacy is a hive of activity processing on average 8,500 items a month.

We spoke to Gareth about the challenges he faces day to day with a view to engaging him as a pilot for our ‘pick to prescription’ solution Golden Tote.

“There’s never enough time in the day. We service a wide-ranging population, many of whom are elderly and many that suffer from a range of complex conditions. We can be assembling prescriptions from early morning to sometimes late into the night during busy periods. It’s not unheard of for me to still be here past 8.30, I’m sure I’m also speaking on behalf of a fair few follow Numark members.”

As is the case with most contractors, time is in short supply and the team at Nantymoel Pharmacy work flat out to support the intensive and resource heavy dispensing obligations for their community.

Gareth Rowe
“We literally all muck in here at Nantymoel. Like most independent contractors, one of the biggest challenges we currently face is that of funding. A familiar subject matter, but one that is ever present. With funding moving away from supply and into services, financially it makes sense to focus on that area of the business. In the 12 years since I took over the pharmacy, we have built our service portfolio from virtually nothing to being accredited for almost all services available in Wales. The problem is, however, it’s difficult to find the time to deliver enough of the services required to maximise the funding opportunities that exist today, let alone consider requirements for the future”

Gareth’s narrative is an all too familiar one. We continue to be reminded of the funding deficit and the thousands of community pharmacies that are operating at a loss. It’s a real and present danger and if contractors don’t start to consider ways of making traditional pharmacy practices more efficient, the premise of service delivery will never really be a concept they can properly commit to – understandably so.

“The direction of travel is clear, and I can see the merit and value of delivering patient services. In our case, funding for services has been committed by Welsh Government as funding for supply reduces. I fully recognise I need to be in a position to deliver services to access that remuneration, but I genuinely just don’t know how that can be achieved to its fullest extent under the current circumstances.”

It was clear that for Gareth and the team, Golden Tote would give them the breathing space to be able explore and expand service opportunities.

“I’m always keen try new ways of working, and whilst a little apprehensive, embedding a system that drastically reduces the time involved with dispensing seemed the logical way forward. The concept behind Golden Tote just made sense to me.

“I anticipated some initial teething problems, particularly with the staff using new technology, however that’s not been the case, mainly because the system is so easy to use. It literally guides you through the process and the team have adapted really well.

“I couldn’t quite believe just how much better it is when you compare it to the old process, it’s so much more efficient and the process couldn’t be simpler. First thing in the morning we open up the system which tells us what totes are going to be coming in for the day. The first job is to print out the pick list, which tells us the lines we need to dispense locally, and then print out the labels for the baskets. We then prepare the baskets, marrying up the labels and prescriptions, with any locally dispensed lines dispensed and checked by the ACT.

“As soon as the totes arrive, one of the dispensing staff will begin scanning; items are scanned straight into the baskets until the tote is empty. The baskets are checked by the system and closed as we bag up the completed prescription. The beauty of Golden Tote is that once that process has started anybody can finish it – because the system does a final basket check on each prescription, a technician or dispensing assistant can complete the process without further input from a pharmacist or ACT.

“One member of staff can now complete multiple prescriptions which allows me and the rest of my team to do other work in the pharmacy. From my perspective, because the clinical and accuracy check is done upfront when the prescription is labelled, from that point onwards, I don’t have to be involved again, I’m free to do other things. Community pharmacy is moving towards a service-based contract and Golden Tote gives me time to develop and deliver our service portfolio.

“Another one of the main attractions of Golden Tote is the safety aspect. The fact that it uses bar code technology means the system recognises the items from the tote and matches that digitally against that person’s prescription, reducing the chance of a picking error and increasing the safety of the dispensing process

“The use of technology clearly makes sense in a modern age. It gives me the confidence of knowing each and every item coming in has been checked and double checked, we’ve had absolutely no picking errors so far; this is one of the big positives from my perspective.

“Whilst time saving and safety, for me, are the big wins, there are many others that I hadn’t fully considered. For example, because stock comes in and then goes straight out, I have managed to significantly reduce my stock holding and release capital. This has been a big advantage for me, and I now only hold minimum stock that I need to fulfil local items and acutes.

“Of course, we also don’t spend anywhere near as much time putting stock away and date checking. Previously we would have had loads of totes stacked up with stock needing to be put on the shelves, only to be brought out later on to dispense prescriptions. We don’t have that anymore; the items move straight from tote to basket.

“Golden Tote makes sense; I would recommend it to anyone. It’s critical now that community pharmacists look at ways to move forwards using technology. The move to a more service driven agenda means that we cannot continue to dispense in the traditional way, pharmacists need to be more available for services and allow support staff to manage more of the supply function. Golden Tote allows me to do this and I couldn’t really imagine going back to our old processes, Golden Tote has been a game changer, it will help secure the future of my pharmacy business and if I’m honest help me sleep a little better a night!”

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