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COVID-19: AAH moves to once a day delivery to 'protect' staff

Social distancing: AAH has introduced "staggered shift start times” in its warehouses
Social distancing: AAH has introduced "staggered shift start times” in its warehouses

Wholesaler AAH has decided to move to a “predominantly once a day delivery service” to protect healthcare staff during the COVID-19 pandemic, it has announced.

The wholesaler wants to “reduce the number of unnecessary people coming into pharmacies” to protect both vulnerable patients and frontline pharmacy staff, a spokesperson from McKesson UK – AAH’s and Lloydspharmacy’s parent company – told C+D yesterday (March 24).

The once a day delivery model – which will be implemented gradually over the “next two to three weeks” – has already been trialled across some Lloydspharmacy branches, the spokesperson said.

Social distancing

AAH announced last week (March 19) that it would also change its cut off times for next day delivery from 8pm to 6pm, while the latest cut off time for same day delivery will be 12pm.

Social distancing suggestions are being followed at AAH’s warehouses, “with staggered shift start times”, the spokesperson told C+D.

“We have also implemented rigorous cleaning schedules and are maximising the use of automation to reduce the need for colleagues to work near one another,” they said.

OTC range

AAH said last week that it will reduce “the number of lines we provide across our over-the-counter (OTC) range” to focus on the delivery of “critical products”.

Alliance Healthcare said last week (March 20) that it had also started prioritising the delivery of “essential prescription only medicines”. Pharmacies should expect that other items, “in particular health and beauty orders”, could arrive later than the “normal turnaround”, it added.

Sigma Pharmaceuticals also said in a statement on its website that it has temporarily reduced the number of products in its  health and beauty and OTC ranges to focus on the delivery of critical medicines.

A spokesperson for Sigma told C+D today (March 25) that “our operation is stable and we are working well to maintain this and do not expect to need to reduce our service”.

Ordered in error

Last week, both AAH and Alliance Healthcare stopped accepting the return of items ordered in error, from March 21 and March 23 respectively.

AAH said it is “experiencing a disproportionate number of returned products that have been ordered in error”, and processing these takes up “valuable resources and driver capacity that we need to focus on the delivery of medicines”.

Alliance Healthcare invited pharmacies to check their orders “carefully before transmission”.

Deliveries from other wholesalers

Sigma Pharmaceuticals added that it will “continue to deliver twice a day to the majority of our customers”.  

C+D also asked Phoenix Medical Supplies if they are considering changing their delivery model and a spokesperson said the situation is “under constant review”.

Wholesaler body the Healthcare Distribution Alliance (HDA) last week asked pharmacies to return tote boxes quickly amid the COVID-19 outbreak.

What do you make of AAH's announcement?

Leon The Apothecary, Student

I am sure pharmacies aren't going to arbitrarily order twice as much now...

anil shah, Locum pharmacist

I know is definitely good as their staff also needs to come in contact with less numbers of people and there is no point in drivers and other staff to remain in premises even though one can't avoid 100%social distancing. Pharmacist will have to get used to this as no one knows how long this will last.

Ebers Papyrus, Pharmaceutical Adviser

Wholesalers are causing this to spiral, shambolic situation. MHRA need to assist them, running out of totes is no excuse get the stock out.

David Moore, Locum pharmacist

I trust they will invest in some larger vans, otherwise some stock will be left behind at the warehouse.

John Urwin, Community pharmacist

Well that's going to exacerbate the tote box shortage!

Mahesh Sodha, Superintendent Pharmacist

Total abuse of power!! Ever since, monopolistic distrubution by Pfizer to supply via a single wholsaler started, gthese wholesalesr have ruined the best distributtion systme we had in then world. 

Let us go back to manufacturers suuplying via any wholesaler and include indpendent and regional wholesalers.

Not accepting ordered in error returns!! What about errors on their part? Do they compensate for their errors.   

david williams, Community pharmacist

Once daily is fine, if that is what they want. Honesty is the main concern here. Car parts are delivered twice daily to garages. Second class in terms of service? If others follow-cartel? If not, change wholesalers. Market forces? We need an independent wholesaler not alligned to my competitors. (surely other pharmacies-editor)

Mark Ashmore, Superintendent Pharmacist


Didn't pharmacy not that long ago have a mutually owned major pharmaceutical distributor?

If I remember correctly contractors who couldn't see beyond the end of the year grabbed the money on offer and then complained when that wholesaler became money rather than customer orientated and was the first to sign up to solus agreements with Pfizer and then Glaxo.

Pharmacy has in so many ways been its own worst enemy for many years.

Mr CAUSTIC, Community pharmacist

once, once daily deliveries are introduced they will never return to twice daily . They would have loved to introduce it years ago to cut their costs,  but knew there would be massive opposition . Now nobody will object . Does this mean they will never introduce a fuel surcharge again ? In the budget when they want to raise taxes they now say" to protect the environment ". Nobody complains because they do not wish to be seen as "anti the environment "

Joan Richardson, Locum pharmacist

While I can fully understand the reasoning behind this decision it will in some ways make the job of the pharmacy teams even harder.  Already patients are complaining when items are not in stock and now they will have to be told that the item will also take longer to arrive.  The fact that we are in the middle of a critical situation makes no difference at all to many patients.

Leon The Apothecary, Student

I think the situation has highlighted how privileged patients have had in regards to medication orders. Reasonable time expectations are going to need to be enforced on a stricter scale than before.

Ebers Papyrus, Pharmaceutical Adviser

If you're lucky, they can't even manage that currently.

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