CCA support Daily Mail Good Health investigation of worst offending ‘pseudo-DSPs’ which reinforces NHS England inaction

The Company Chemists’ Association supported a Daily Mail1 Good Health investigation of ‘pseudo-DSPs’ breaching their NHS contracts, by failing to provide their services nationally.

The Daily Mail investigated the worst offending eleven pseudo-DSPs, who were found to be only dispensing prescriptions to their local area. Test enquiries were made and eight of these businesses refused to dispense a legal prescription presented by a patient from outside of their local area.

The CCA has long raised concerns about the detrimental impact of pseudo-DSPs to local contractors, and more importantly to patients. To date we have not seen any meaningful action from NHSE or their regional teams.

In 2022, the CCA presented evidence to NHS England demonstrating that many Distance Selling Pharmacies (DSPs) were breaching their NHS contract in the manner described above.

In 2023, CCA research2 found that 72% of DSPs were breaching their NHS contract. It also found that there had been a significant increase in the number of DSPs since 2015/16. Recent CCA analysis3 found that, in comparison, there had been a net loss of 1,000+ bricks and mortar pharmacies since 2015/16.

The 2023 research also found that some pseudo-DSPs were popping up and offering their services in small localities at the same time as bricks and mortar pharmacies close by were closing. At the time, an associated Daily Mail article4 noted that “an NHS spokesperson said distance-selling pharmacies which failed to deliver medicines to anyone who requested them anywhere in England would be investigated”.

The CCA is once again calling for NHS England to address the practice of businesses obtaining a DSP contract and then purposefully only providing NHS dispensing services to a very local area. We are very concerned that this practice is starving established brick and mortar pharmacies of NHS-funded business.

The CCA urges NHS England to:

  • Investigate DSPs identified as clearly not offering or providing their services to patients nationally;
  • Audit all DSPs and act against DSPs failing to meet their obligations, as outlined in NHS contracts;
  • Challenge DSPs to routinely provide evidence of national service provision; and
  • Revoke the contracts of DSPs who fail to meet the requirements set out in their NHS contracts.

Malcolm Harrison, the Chief Executive of the CCA said:

“Despite our warnings, NHS England seem to have turned a blind eye to the rising number of pseudo-Distance Selling Pharmacies (DSPs) that are breaching their contractual agreements.

Genuine DSPs offer valuable access to medicines and greater choice for patients. However, pseudo-DSPs continue to disrupt the market, putting local contractors under pressure and potentially denying patients access to wider pharmaceutical care.

It’s time NHS England wake up to the threat posed by pseudo-DSPs to the existing pharmacy network, especially as pharmacies continue to close”.

Table 1: Breakdown of DSP prescription sources


1 – Daily Mail, How new online chemists backed by the NHS could put your local pharmacist out of business, 6th February 2024

2- CCA, ‘Pseudo’ Distance Selling Pharmacies are threatening your local pharmacy, July 2023

3 – CCA, The impact of pharmacy closures on health inequalities: one year on, November 2023

4 – The Daily Mail, Rogue mail order medicine firms are killing off Britain’s vital high street pharmacies and risk leaving patients without face-to-face care, July 2023

Notes to editors

  • Distance Selling Pharmacies (DSPs) are intended to provide medicines to patients remotely, for example by post or by courier. DSPs are contractually obligated to provide their services and deliver prescriptions across the whole country.
  • Table 1 illustrates the proportion of DSP prescriptions supplied to a single postcode are, taken from NHSBSA prescription data.
  • There were 163 pharmacies that received at least 90% of all dispensed prescriptions from GPs within a 10-mile radius, and these GPs were all in a single postcode.
  • We have classified DSPs with more than 50% of their prescriptions coming from GPs in a single postcode area, located within 10 miles of the pharmacy, as “not delivering their NHS DSP contractual requirements”.

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