How the prescription drug vending machines work

Two types of prescription drug vending machines may be introduced across England.

One is currently being trialled in West Sussex Sainsbury's stores, with the aim of cutting customer queuing times.

Roy Swift has been using the machine to pick up his repeat prescriptions and says: "The first time I used it, it was a little bit unfamiliar. But after I got used to it was very easy."

While the machines will be available only alongside the in-store pharmacy service, it is possible to conduct the whole process without face-to-face contact.

Repeat prescribing accounts for 80% of prescription items - the other items are treatments the patient has not used before and may be unfamiliar with.

Some GPs, like Dr Laurence Buckman, chairman of the British Medical Association GP Committee are concerned by this.

He says: "Giving out medicine is not just box-shifting. The patient doesn't know if there are any questions that need to be asked or answered.

"It can't be safe to hand over the prescription when you haven't met a pharmacist who knows whether that prescription is safe in combination with other things you are eating or other medicines you taking. A machine can't tell you this."

The other type of automated drug dispensing machine will be piloted this winter in hospitals, with the hope that it will help patients to get their medicines out of hours or in remote areas.

This one has a videolink so the pharmacist can see and talk to the patient and vice-versa. The pharmacist can check the prescription as cameras in the machine photograph it and the image appears on the pharmacist's computer.

After the pharmacist has checked the prescription, conducted a full patient medical history, seen some ID and taken any payment, he or she can authorise the machine to dispense the drugs, which are stored inside.

READ MORE: Vending machines for prescription drugs on trial

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