Whether you have bought your pharmacy, or you’ve had one for a number of years. You may very well realise that you need a pharmacy refit at some point. The gphc has defined some principles by which your pharmacy should follow – What makes a “good” pharmacy
If you’re in any doubt as to whether you currently meet all these requirements, you could be due for a refit.
And by refit, you perhaps shouldn’t look at it as “bolting” on some add-ons – you always look at it with a holistic approach – always aiming for a better layout, increasing visual appeal and maximising the efficiency and workflow of the dispensary.
Why do a refit?
Firstly, if the pharmacy hasn’t had a refit in a while (the average pharmacy gets one every 20 years) then chances are it will be outdated. Especially now that pharmacy is becoming more services oriented, rather than being purely dispensary focused as in the past, you may find that things need to be adjusted to fit in with the changing workplace.
By doing this, it can create an easier environment for your staff, and allow them to work more efficiently, which has the combined effects of both increasing speed, safety and cost effectiveness as well as boosting staff morale.
The net result of this will of course mean a better customer experience – which will help you retain more customers and eventually, improving your bottom line.
An added side benefit are that a refit can also add value to the business. If a potential buyer sees that minimal work is required to the pharmacy, that can only improve the goodwill offer.
Considerations before starting
The average pharmacy refit can cost from around £40,000 – £80,000 (or more) so its crucial that the benefits of the refit, will allow you to recoup some money back. So make sure to plan well!
Planning what you want to achieve and being clear from the outset will speed up the refurbishment and give you the end result you were hoping for. It may involve making the dispensary workflow more efficient., having discreet areas for dosette and care home systems.
You may even consider having an automated dispensing system or modular shelving. Some smaller robots are available for around £50,000 and the glass frontage of the robot could add a “wow” factor for any patients waiting for their prescription. And the best time to install a robot is during a refit, as there will be a significant amount of upheaval required in order to insert and install it.
Do you want face to face dispensing, allowing patients to hand in prescriptions directly to the dispensary counter or retain the more traditional layout?
You will also need to check your lease, to find out if you have permission to alter the structure or signage and that the lease has a sufficient amount of time left on it.
You may also want to remain open while the refit is going on, so you need to ensure its still a safe environment for the patients and staff, and have a contingency plan in case of telephone line or power loss. Pharmacies will often still offer a stop-gap dispensing only operation during a refit. But, by staying open, take into account, it could delay your shopfitters and increase your cost. So balance it up – would it be better just to close completely for a few days in order to speed up the process. Hint: perhaps you could plan it over a bank holiday weekend? Or you could even operate in another temporary location/Portakabin?
Also, make sure your patients and local GP surgeries will be aware of any changes or disruption to normal service. If it’s a fairly long closure, you may need to apply to your PCT for a temporary change in the pharmacy’s opening hours.
And make your staff aware of the refit. if you are closing encourage them to take holidays or make sure you have enough cover if there’s going to be increased workload.
The most crucial part (which goes without saying) is selecting the right shopfitter – and obviously it should be one that regularly handles pharmacy refits – as they’ll have first hand experience of designs, lightings and displays. It also never harms to shop around, get quotes from multiple shopfitters and ask for examples of their work. And certain fitters specialise in retail designs – if your dispensary accounts for 90%+ of your turnover, retail-led designs won’t be useful for you.
You could even go down the route of hiring a separate company to create the design you want, and then finding a refitter who can carry out the design. The advnatge of this being you can compare quotes at a level playing field.
Layout and design
This part won’t happen overnight and will determine how successful the end product is. Take into consideration how the pharmacy wil perform in the future and how it will effect/improve the way you currently work. The refitter may have their own ideas or opinions on the layout but you and your staff will need to live with it, so make sure the design revolves around the way you want to work. The last thing you want is having to change your process around a layout that you don’t like.
Think about future-proofing the pharmacy as much as you can, add in the extra plugs, phone lines, etc even if they aren’t currently being used. You may want to use these further down the line as pharmacy becomes more IT-oriented.
The 4 main areas taken into consideration regarding layout are usually broken down into:
Dispensary, Consultation room (or rooms), staff and back area and the sales floor.
So ensure you divide up space in the correct proportion, by taking into account factors such as whether you have a robot, space for MDS/CDS trays, if you need an area for substance misuse patients, staff toilets and an area for the drivers to sort out deliveries, amongst many others.
Dispensary design needs to take into account how you need the work to flow and the correct design, will provide maximum efficiency and reduce the risk of errors. Make sure printers are close to the workstations, bags are at the checking area, there’s enough space for storing prescriptions for collection, etc.
Consultations rooms are particularly important when it comes to building regulations. And with the right number of, and especially size of consultation rooms in the pharmacy, will impact on the services you can offer and in what volume you can feasibly do it. Ensure you provide the right access to these rooms, for the disabled as well. And if space allows, you may want a separate consultation room with hatch access for substance misuse services.
For overall design and aesthetics, factors such as lighting, colour schemes and the shelving and flooring will come into play. However, less really is more sometimes and just needs to be kept airy and professional. For instance, the window display just needs some simple lighting and something which clearly states opening hours and services, no need to complicate this part.
How to get it done
Shopfitters will usually consist of a large team of subcontractors who will specialise in certain areas and be able to draw up a plan of timescales. However, you will need to do your own planning with regards to preparing for closure (if you close) and communicating this to patients and GP surgeries. Also if there any specialised fittings or storage solutions that need to be ordered in advance.
Or if you’ve decided on a dispensing robot, dicuss the timescales/tasks with the robotics company and with the shopfitter. This may include making adequate room to manoeuvre the parts in or reinforcing the floor to take the weight of the robot.
Its often a good idea to run stock down prior to a refit as well and decluttering any junk – you’ll need as much space as possible during a refit.
The fitters will normally work on the dispensary first, so if you are staying open in the same premises, ensure you have a temporary dispensary in place. Even if it means reducing the capacity of your sales floor to make way for your dispensary, the priority is to give the fitters enough space to do the job properly! And after the sales floor is completed, staff/back areas are usually done last.
Its not finished there though! You’ll need to put your pharmacist hat back on and go through everything, just to ensure there are no defects or ommissions. And make sure to do this before the contractors left, as it can be hard to get someone to rectify a small issue afterwards.
And once everythings finished, you’ll need at least a full day to re-merchandise, and it would be a good idea to have the bulk of your stock arriving on this day. This lets you carefully allocate space to product lines which are most popular.
Obviously, I can’t cover exact costings here as its all dependent on individual plans and the fitter you go with. However, as a general rule, the average pharmacy of 120 square metres, would pay around £1,000 per square metre. That would cover everything from design, fitting, flooring, lighting, outside signage and the CCTV/alarm systems.
The important point is set a budget, be realistic about whats reasonable within that budget and only spend money where it would add the most value.
You could reduce costs by using local tradesmen for certain parts of the refit or buying your own materials, but bear in mind don’t take that as an open invitation to just “do it yourself” , or doing one bit at a time over a long period. In the end it just won’t look right could end up costing you more.
Time to capitalise
Now its time to celebrate! We want everyone to be aware of the refit, to maximise your chances of building a larger patient base and potential links with key influencers. So plan a grand reopening, announce on social media and invite the local press to show off your new pharmacy. You could even invite local GPs, care home managers and some of your most loyal customers.
So while refitting a pharmacy may seem like a huge financial cost, when its planned correctly and implemented with the correct future-proofing strategy, it should have a huge financial benefit, not to mention a huge benefit for the local area, waiting at the end.